Food in Naples means tradition. Food in Naples stands for simple, fresh products combined in an almost alchemical way. From thick-crust pizza to timballo (Naplesâ€™ version of lasagna), from sfogliatelle (Naplesâ€™ version of baklava) to insalalta di rinforzo (pickled salad), everything reflects this amazingly basic approach.
Di Matteo embodies Neapolitan food philosophy in the art of pizza making. The restaurant itself is nothing fancy. Probably you wouldnâ€™t even notice it if you were just walking on hectic, bustling Via dei Tribunali, except that people pour out the front with slices wrapped in half, eating on the street.
As you walk, stay alert for the waiters twirling through the restaurant at amazing speeds, seemingly careless of the multiple pizzas or calzones that they balance over the heads of businessmen, kids, politicians, housewives, and everyone else who comes here to eat.
In fact, Di Matteo has become so famous for its pizza that President Bill Clinton ate here during the G8 summit, when it was held in Naples.
Once you are in, you feel part of a Neapolitan comedy. Waiters talk in strict Neapolitan. They gesture as actors while they juggle the precious round plates of pizza. The atmosphere is incredibly chaotic. And you wonder just how people ever get their food.
Of course, itâ€™s the food thatâ€™s important. All the pizzas and calzones (a di Matteo specialty) are cooked in a wood-burning oven. And all the typical toppings are offered. However, most people order simply a margherita, as we did last time, because in some respects anything besides cheese and sauce would sully the purity of the pizza.
In fact, Di Matteo has risen to something of mythic status in Napoli. The owner boasts that people come to eat with their hands, drink from plastic cups, and forgo niceties like table clothes. Anything like these things would only distract from the sublime simplicity of pizza dough, sauce, and cheese.
Pizzeria Di Matteo
Via Tribunali, 94
Closed on Saturdays