- It may not look pretty but that’s what real pizza looks like.
A friend told us it was the real thing. We didn’t believe him.
Neapolitan pizza in Mumbai? It’s hard enough to get real Neapolitan pizza outside Naples; outside Italy, it’s almost impossible.
Or so we thought, especially in India where Italian food is hugely popular but pizzas are a consistent disappointment. In most places, even the higher end ones, the best you can hope for is a medium-crust pizza with way too much cheese.
Most common is the kind of pizza that features in 20-page multi-cuisine menus: premade crusts with everything-goes toppings, from paneer to chicken. Blasphemy to Italian ears and stomachs.
Despite our skepticism, we decided to try out Di Napoli and made our way to Nariman Point, in the city’s south, where we found the pizza joint tucked away behind an office building.
The entrance wasn’t glamorous, nor was its chilling gray interior, and the red and white plastic chairs didn’t help. We sat down hoping the service would be speedy, which it was.
The menu, which was mercifully short – always a good sign – promised authentic Neapolitan pizza. We kept it simple and ordered the classic pizza Margherita (385 rupees, $7): tomato, mozzarella and basil. Named after a 19th century Italian queen, it was made to resemble the colors of the Italian flag: red, white and green.
What they served us exceeded all expectations, and was by far the best pizza I’ve had in India. In fact, it’s fair to say it was good also by Italian standards. Hand-stretched and baked in a brick oven imported from Italy, the crust was fluffy, lightly charred on the outside and thin in the middle – the way Neapolitan pizza should be.
- Not only most ingredients but even the brick oven was imported from Italy.
The quality of the ingredients makes a difference and the topping was delicious in its simplicity: San Marzano tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. Other choices include pizzas with sautéed mushrooms (395 rupees), pepperoni (545 rupees) or Parma ham (685 rupees.) The price isn’t bad considering Di Napoli imports most of its ingredients, flour included, directly from the Mediterranean peninsula.
(Warning: The menu makes a few concessions to local tastes, which purists will find upsetting. Under “pizze indiane” you’ll spot a butter chicken option, which we suggest you stay way clear of.)
The ingredients alone don’t do it. Above all, Di Napoli gets it right because its pizza chefs know what they are doing: they were trained by Italian “pizzaioli” who spent weeks in Mumbai before the restaurant’s opening. And it shows.
But come here only for the pizza. We also tried a tomato bruschetta (160 rupees), which was average and no different from what you get in your substandard wannabe Italian restaurant around the country. It was basically garlic bread – which, by the way, is not actually Italian – topped with warm chopped tomatoes (yes, warm) and melted cheese. The menu also includes a handful of vegetarian pasta dishes.
Like the chefs, the waiters were courteous and knew what they were talking about, which made the experience of eating at Di Napoli a lot more pleasant.
If you like the pizza but not the ambience, here’s the good news: When we went there, they were planning to start delivering, at least in the area. There are whisperings they plan to open elsewhere in Mumbai, with possibly Bangalore and New Delhi to follow.
The bottom line: This is the best pizza in India. While the place could do with a warmer ambience, this is rarely a priority for pizzerias, at least in Italy. Pizza is Italian fast food, it is food you eat with your hands (it tastes better if you do), and no one goes there on their first date anyway.