Pizza legends are bringing Naples to Rome, one slice at a time.
We may be in Rome, but Neapolitan pizza is having a moment. Round and soft with a chewy rim, Naples’ approach to pizza is in stark contrast to the Capital’s traditional wafer-thin crust and blackened edges. But in the past year alone, not one but two Neapolitan pizza titans, Gino Sorbillo and Salvatore di Matteo, have launced pizzerias in the Eternal City.
Sorbillo (pictured) has been kneading his way to the top of the Naples food scene for over two decades; when UNESCO awarded Neapolitan pizza the coveted status of “intangible heritage” in 2017, the beloved food celebrity sent locals into a frenzy by handing out free slices. A third-generation pizzaiolo, Sorbillo also snagged the no. 2 spot on the international Top 50 Pizza Guide. He currently boasts locations in Milan, New York, and most recently, Rome. Lievito Madre (Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 46) stays loyal to its original ancestor, Sorbillo’s historic pizzeria in Naples, shimmying unapologetically thick-crusted pies out of wood-burning ovens and topping them with organic tomato sauce, DOP buffalo mozzarella, and more.
Salvatore di Matteo, meanwhile, opened his own Roman branch this past autumn, the eponymous Salvatore Di Matteo: Le Gourmet (Via Vittoria Colonna, 32). Dough here is left to rise
for 12 hours at room temperature, before being shaped and decked out with ingredients like Agerola provolone and Cetara anchovies. A quick flick of raw extra-virgin olive oil finishes most of his pizzas. On his decision to expand to the Eternal City, Di Matteo has said,“There’s tradition, as well as my own personal evolution as a pizzaiolo, that I want to bring to Rome. I want to tell the story of Naples and the rest of Italy through ingredients typical of the peninsula.”
But the pizza world’s rising star is hands-down pizzaiolo Pier Daniele Seu, at the helm of Seu Pizza Illuminati in Trastevere (Via Angelo Bargoni, 10), fresh o its first birthday. His pizza, he says, “takes the tradition and techniques of Neapolitan pizza and combines it with the crunchiness of Roman pizza. It’s my own recipe that didn’t exist in Rome until now.” While a selection of classics like Margherita and Marinara keep purists content, Seu’s cheeky menu plays matchmaker with everything from purple carrots to umeboshi, from black truffle to capocollo, from ground espresso to melon. If you’re overwhelmed by choice, go for the pizza tasting menu.
All three pizzaioli plan on opening pizzerias in other parts of Europe and the US one day. “Neapolitan pizza began in Naples and survived the centuries, despite all the difficulties, the earth- quakes, Vesuvius, the wars,” Sorbillo said to The New York Times. “It’s an art.”