After Hours: Find the best pizza on the edge of Naples
Stars and Stripes March 20, 2008
POZZUOLI, Italy — It’s said you can’t get a bad pizza in Naples.
Perhaps, but some pizzerias are better than others. In Pozzuoli, a suburb just on the fringe of Naples is an unassuming, seemingly hole-in-the-wall joint that offers up some of the best pizza yet.
For 28 years now, Pizzeria al Giardino has offered up some scrumptious pies — from the traditional pizza Margherita to specialties such as the capricciosa (topped with ham, salami, mushrooms and artichoke hearts) to Siciliana (topped with eggplant), or a cheese-based pie topped with fresh arugula.
The secrets to a great pizza are three, said pizzaiolo Antonio Quaranta: the dough, the rising of the dough, and the temperature of the brick ovens.
The dough of just flour, water and yeast is kneaded and allowed to rise with care — the exacting timing, however is a trade secret that Quaranta holds to himself. The dough is then molded into softball-sized balls and covered with cotton towels until needed.
Pizzas are quick to cook, for they stay no more than 2 minutes in the brick oven, at temperatures hovering between 750 and 850 degrees Fahrenheit, he says.
But al Giardino isn’t just for pizza, says Luisa Balestrieri, one of the owners. “What we do well is typical dishes, dishes that we make fresh daily here in the restaurant ourselves, like gnocchi (potato dumplings) and tagliatelle (a type of noodle).”
Good eatin’ isn’t the only thing that draws customers to the restaurant a few hundred meters from the touristy Solfatara sulfur attraction.
The location used to be a garden, and an outdoor terrace allows customers to enjoy their feast while looking out over of the rooftops of the town and at the Bay of Pozzuoli.
Choices of appetizers are separated into two groups of mare o monti, sea or mountains. Fish-based appetizers include puffs of dough and seaweed, octopus salad, steamed mussels and clams, for example. The other option offers diners a smattering of land-based foods, like cheese, olives and thinly-sliced hams.
Main dishes other than pizza include several pasta-based plates, meats and chicken and a few fish choices. Wrap up the meal with a dessert, coffee or homemade limoncello, or lemon liquor.
See previous After Hours reviews here.
Pizzeria al Giardino Naples, Italy
Hours: Evenings Tuesday through Sunday (also serves lunch on Sunday)
Specialties: pizza, Italian “home-cooking”
Dress code: casual
Menu in English: no (but on most Saturdays, a staffer there speaks English)
Address: Via Solfatara, No. 68
Web site: none