It’s a rainy Sunday night and the queue outside the newest pizza spot in Stoke Newington is long enough to make you ask yourself whether the pizza is really worth the wait.
White marble tables, a big copper sign on white tiles, brick walls and a blue tiled wood oven: walk into Da Michele Pizzeria and you will instantly know what it feels like to be in the original branch in Naples. Three framed pictures of one of the oldest pizzerias on earth and shelves filled with copper pots and empty water bottles adorn the very simple interior. The place still looks like a work in progress, but it will probably stay that way.
The paper menus on the tables mirror the simplicity of the space and are loyal to the original restaurant in Naples. The choice is limited but justified. Pizza is a very simple thing and there are only two kinds you need to try to know whether it’s good or not – Margherita and Marinara.
Mozzarella lovers can have their Margherita with a double topping, and if you’re feeling particularly hungry you can order a larger version of the perfectly rounded pizza pie. Truth be told, you don’t need to overestimate your hunger to want more of this delicacy; the base is so light you could easily have more than one before feeling full.
It’s the Marinara, however, that steals the show. The tomato sauce, made with the famous San Marzano tomatoes direct from Naples, is the star of the night. The balance between the acidity of the tomatoes and the sweetness of the extra virgin olive oil is perfect. With the right amount of garlic and dry oregano it’s almost unbelievable to think that something with so few ingredients could be so delicious.
The litmus test to see if the pizza base is cooked to perfection, and has risen for the ideal amount of time, is to fold a slice in half and watch the pointed end slowly falling down towards the plate. Never trust a slice of pizza that remains perfectly still and horizontal when lifted. Needless to say, Da Michele’s pizza passes this test with flying colours.
The drinks on offer don’t make a fuss either – Birra Moretti bottled or on draught, blonde or red. You wouldn’t find a selection of wines like this in the original Neapolitan branch (Neapolitans don’t drink wine with pizza), but there’s still nothing on offer that would breach the borders of the Southern Italian region of Campania, just like the rest of the ingredients.
‘For desserts please check the board’, reads the menu. But there’s no board in sight and they don’t have any desserts, possibly the only disappointing part of the meal.
Yes, you can have a very large pizza at Da Michele and still feel like you have space left for dessert afterwards, just like you would in Naples. Or at least I can.
Prices range from £6.90 for a regular Marinara, to £9.00 for a double mozzarella large Margherita.