When I think about how I spent my twenties…I’m pretty proud of it. I have really tried to live my life to the fullest. As a result, I’ve collected some really cool stories, like that time I stayed in an old mental hospital in Greece by accident or the moment I began to recover from my childhood trauma in Thailand. Maybe one day I’ll tell you those stories but today, we’re going to talk about pizza.
See, way back when, I was a young spry little thing who knew nothing of the heinous allergies that were slowly wearing down on my liver. That and all that alcohol, but that’s beside the point! This was in 2010, when Eat, Pray, Love had just come out. The book, not the movie. You know how she starts with Eat? She started at a little pizzeria called L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Back when I could actually eat food, I was a self-proclaimed foodie. Naturally, on my train ride from Florence to Pompeii, I decided to check out this pizzeria in Naples!
It wasn’t that easy though. See, MOST pizzerias are open for breakfast. Yes, in Italy, you can and should have pizza for breakfast. That’s why I showed up to this pizzeria, fully expecting to get pizza at 8am. Alas, they were NOT open. As I arrive to the door, a small group of old Italian men also arrive. They barely spoke English and this was back when smart phones were just being developed and out of most people’s price range. Plus, this was back when you had to pay $50 a minute for phone calls!! I can’t believe that was just ten years ago!
Anyway, there I am, with three old Italian men, trying to communicate via slow English/Italian and hand gestures. I discovered that the restaurant doesn’t open until 11 a.m.! Shit. All I had was one of Anthony Bourdains books and thats it. No music, no internet, and no GPS to prevent me from getting lost. What did I do? I hunkered down into a doorway and tried to pass the time.
Something you might not know about Naples: they often have trash strikes. It’s a really gross city. I’ve been three times now and it has never impressed me. So there really wasn’t a place I could find that wasn’t by a dumpster of some kind. I didn’t want to wander around because again, no GPS.
I’m sitting there for about 90 minutes when low and behold, those old Italian men walk by me, arm in arm. One of them stopped and said, “Ah, you were that white girl from earlier, yes?” or something to that effect. I just said, “si,” unsure where this was going. He holds out his hand, motioning for me to take it. What did I do?
I grabbed the old man’s hand.
So there we were, me, him and his friend, holding one another as we walk down the street. We come upon the restaurant again and guess what this old dude does? He opens the door with his key! Turns out, he’s one of the owners of the restaurant and so is the other guy! How do I know this? Pictures of them all over the walls of the restaurant, with the famous people that have visited!
So they take down a chair for me to sit at and…we sit there. Well, the old guy who held my hand, he went somewhere else. The other owner sat down at the front cashier chair, minding his own business. Me? I sit there, awkwardly, looking at every detail, counting the tiles on the floor and wondering how to say, “thank you, I read about you in a book” in Italian. I had a handbook…it wasn’t helpful.
Finally, around 10:30am, the old guy groans his way off his chair and comes to take my order. There are only two choices: margarita and margarita with extra cheese. Since I was all on my lonesome, I ordered just the whole entire pizza, sans extra cheese. A reasonable choice, I think.
So then the younger guys get to work, tossing down and making my pizza pie. They’re cooked in a wood burning stove, so the crust gets burnt and crispy. I also did something incredibly uncharacteristic and ordered a Coke. I NEVER drink Coke and this might’ve been one of the last times I’ve ever had Coke. But it was a glass bottle, the pizza was fresh, the Italian guy winked at me…what can I say? I was feeling wild.
So the pizza is set in front of me and I took my first bite. It. Was. Incredible. I literally felt my whole perspective on the universe change. I finally understood why the Italians fervently believe in God. God is in their food. I ate that whole damn thing. I savored every single doughy bite, mindfully chewing each piece of cheese that tried to escape.
When I was done, the old guy came up and took my money. After he gave me my change, he grabbed my hands and looked me deeply in the eyes. I’m a pro at holding Italian men’s hands at this point, so I just proceed to tell him how much I loved his pizza. He squeezed my hands and said, “you will come back, yes?”
“Yes! Yes! I will!” I vowed.
And I did. In 2016, I went back and had some of the last glutenous pizza I’ll ever have. I even got the extra cheese and dearly paid for it for four days, ending up in the ER clinic. No joke…
So that is the story of the best pizza of my life. I think I’m going to write some more blogs like this. I have so many tiny stories in my life, that are never told. They can be a fun way for you get to know me! That and help me pass time in quarantine. LOL