“We should go to Naples on Valentine’s Day,” my husband excitedly exclaimed. Images of our time “passing through” Naples over the past 5 months flashed through my head. Naples is many things including loud, seedy in places, dirty in still more places, and chaotic in a way I have never experienced. I didn’t respond right away to his idea because I knew I would say something like, “NOT ON YOUR LIFE!” Instead I said, “Why?” His response was short and delicious, “pizza.”
I did expect to find the perfect pizza because Naples is the self-proclaimed birthplace of pizza. I did not expect to find a pulse in Naples that I truly enjoyed. It was an homage to Cupid – The Roman God of Love. Huge well-illumined hearts lit up the cobblestoned streets in a way that would rival any large city at Christmas. There were posters in all the shop windows about the art of love and there was a passion in the air that was, I believe, only possible in Naples. There were couples in heated discussions, hands flying, while zipping through traffic on their Vespas, matched only by those on park benches kissing and gazing at one another, as the silk rose bouquet drooped beside them on the bench. The only people more passionate than the couples we came across were the “pazzaiolos” “pizza makers.
The “Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana” (“True Neapolitan Pizza Association”), was founded in 1984 to certify the pizzerias that are using the proper ancient artisan traditions of authentic pizza. The place to find the highest concentration of “certified” pizzerias is in the historic center of Naples on Via dei Tribunali. Some of the purist pizzerias we visited only serve two pizzas, the “Marinara” and the “Margherita.” Every ingredient is certified as is each painstaking step to create the perfect pie! Ron is from the East Coast and since the day I met him, has had a palpable fervor around artisan pizza. Growing up on the West Coast, Pizza Hut was my idea of good pizza. Hey, it was gourmet compared to Tombstone! Today, of course, Seattle has some amazing pizzerias. Our favorite is called, none other than Via Tribunali, on Capital Hill.
I have to say, though, there was an earthy decadence to the pizza in Naples on Valentine’s Day, that had nothing to do with certifications or quality ingredients. It was all about LOVE, and how it infuses itself into food when we let it. “Buon San Valentino” is still coursing through me and I owe it all to Naples, (and to my husband).