Pizza Fritta in Naples
Whenever I get the chance to spend some time in Naples—where I was born around 40 years ago, and where pizza has flourished over the last four centuries at least—there is only one thing I crave more than a margherita pizza: breakfast.
Nowhere else in Italy—or abroad for that matter—can I find the intense, strong, single shot espresso and the soft, substantial sweet brioche to go with it. Yet, I recently discovered a tradition I had missed out on: pizza fritta for breakfast.
Neapolitan fried pizza is massive, awesome, and irresistible. Back in the 50s, it was made and sold by working-class Neapolitan women right out of their humble houses to supplement the meager family income, using cheap ingredients and a makeshift booth. This is also how La Masardona—named for the nickname of the founder, grandmother to Enzo Piccirillo—started out. Like many places in the old part of the town, it only sells stuffed fried pizza, and opens as early at 7 a.m.
Today the Piccirillo family owns a comfortable restaurant opposite the booth’s original location, and another venue in Ibiza, but they still make fried pizza the way grandma taught them. Two overlapping disks of dough are spread to contain a generous amount of delicious filling, which, in the traditional recipe—featured as completo on the menu, kind of a Neapolitan Full Monty—is made with ricotta cheese, pork scratchings, smoked mozzarella cheese, and basil and pepper, with or without tomato sauce. The two dough pieces are then sealed so that the filling won’t slip out when it’s fried.
As we hit La Masardona around 7.30 a.m., the “kitchen” is already busy. At the marble counter, Enzo’s sons Salvatore and Cristiano Piccirillo make the pizzas, and their aunt, a sweet-looking blond lady, fries them. At this time of the day, people don’t yet need to take a number and line up, but the staff are rarely at rest. Many traders from the nearby fish market come here to ease out the cold and tiredness, joined by staff from the nearby hospital in search of a rewarding break after the overnight shift. Many tourists are also led here by travel guides and articles to experience this lesser-known Neapolitan tradition.
As we indulge on a completo senza pomodoro, the smaller-size pizza called battilocchio—a single plate of dough with half the filling, folded in a crescent shape—using our hands and a considerable number of paper napkins, Enzo tells me about the early morning clientele and the pizza fritta tradition.
“To locals, having breakfast with a pizza fritta is totally normal, some even drink a beer with it,” he says. “Yet, many foreign tourists ask for cappuccino. We try to explain them that we don’t serve coffee or hot drinks at any time of the day, and that it is not the right choice with pizza. We suggest a glass of Marsala, the fortified wine traditionally paired to pizza fritta in Naples, instead. Now, that’s an authentic Neapolitan experience!”
Photo by: Alessandra Farinelli