Please note, Vicoli di Napoli Pizzeria was previously called L’antica Pizzeria da Michele. Time Out Food editors, May 2019.
The shabby naples joint of L’antica Pizzeria da Michele, open since 1906, is much hyped as ‘the best pizza in the world’. Fanning the flames of that rep was the 2010 film ‘Eat Pray Love’, where Julia Roberts sits all blissed out, declaring she’s ‘having a relationship’ with her pizza.
Well, lucky old us, because the Naples original has just spawned its first international branch in Stoke Newington. A much less shabby, bright blue establishment on Church Street to be precise – and the whole of the capital is in the queue. First things first: L’antica really is amazing, but if you’re looking for a relationship with this pizza it’s going to take some commitment.
Not only do you usually have to queue for at least 40 minutes to get a slice of the action, but once you fight your way in, the menu is the pizza equivalent of monogamy (well, Mormon-style monogamy, at any rate). There are just two varieties – marinara and margherita – or you could argue three, if you count the double mozzarella margherita on its own. But you can definitely forget about having any bits on the side – when my date asked for a condiment (which shall remain unnamed) the waitress looked like she was going to ask us to leave.
And good thing too, because when something’s this delicious you don’t need any distractions. Thin, crispy and served with beautiful burnt bubbles in the dough, what makes L’antica’s pizza really special is its softness. No exaggeration, you can cut through this base with the edge of a fork, and it comes so saucy and voluptuous you actually have to cradle each piece with both hands to keep things together. The sauce itself is exceptional: best appreciated on the marinara (just tomato, garlic and oregano), it’s fresh and sweet and just a little bit tart. Best of the two (three?), though, is the double mozzarella. Properly luscious, it arrives bigger than the plate it’s served on and oozes puddles of wonderfully stringy cheese. Order this and you will understand what got Julia Roberts so hot under the collar – it really is love at first bite.
But the best pizza in the world? If no one had told me this before I went, I’d probably be more blown away – a rep like that can only set you up for disappointment. So (slightly) lower your expectations and go on a weekday lunchtime to avoid the queue. This slice is definitely worth pulling a sickie for.