If there's one pizza you have to add to your bucket list, this is it.
Fresh off a scorching hot tour of Pompeii, fellow Foodbeast members Isai, Marc, Elie and myself were exhausted and starving. We only had a couple of hours left before our Carnival Cruise ship left the port, when Marc suggested what we later learned was the best idea in our entire trip.
My friend Ash told me about it before I left for the cruise. He said he had waited HOURS to grab a slice at this spot and it was completely worth the wait.
With a Promised Land to trek towards, we were ready to try this pizzeria Marc spoke so highly of.
It was a half hour walk from the port. Marc in the lead with his phone held high, Elie close behind him, looking at the souvenirs in the street stands, myself snapping photos like the typical tourist and Izzy in last place as he texted some girl he didn't want us to know about.
What was minutes seemed like hours thanks to our hunger pangs. As we rounded the corner of the busy Italian street, my heart sank. In what looked like a crowd at a soccer game, the large sea of people we spotted was the line for the Michelin-starred Da Michele.
The line is crazier than any sneaker drop I’ve ever seen. The pizza must be good if locals are waiting in a line, when they could just go to the other world class pizza joints on the same block.
While Elie, Isai and myself quietly considered slumming it at the pizza spot across the street, Marc shot straight through the crowd like a bullet. His Los Angeles Football Club scarf flapping in the wind like a superhero. He had a fire in his eyes as bright red as his ginger beard.
As the three of us waited on the outskirts of the crowd of hungry patrons, our own stomaches began to growl with uncertainty.
About 15 minutes later, he triumphantly waded through the sea of people with two boxes of pizza held high over his head. There was a fat smile on his face, like he had just accomplished the impossible. In a way, he had.
A man ran out of the pizzeria right after him.
Shit. Marc stole that guy's pizza, I thought to myself.
Turns out the dude was an employee who saw the LAFC scarf our video director was wearing. In this moment, the two fans of football bonded over their mutual love of the sport and a box of pizza. As a thank you, Marc removed the scarf from his shoulders and draped it over the man as a sign of friendship.
As beautiful as that moment was, I was starving. Twenty minutes prior to this event, I had eaten it on the Italian sidewalk after tripping over my two left feet. A bruised ego and an even more bruised camera lens. Not a great pairing to hunger.
We took the pizzas up the street, which seemed like hours of more walking, and finally opened the boxes.
As Elie eagerly swung open pizza box I got a huge waft of the freshly-made pizza. Like my earlier incident with the sidewalk, I was completely floored by how glorious it smelled.
Elie handed me an Isai a box to share as he split the other with Marc. As I took a bite, my pizza-eating life flashed before my eyes. I remembered the first time I tried Costco pizza, when Domino's re-did their crust, even my brief but amazing stint as a pizza delivery boy for a mom and pop shop.
Looking back, those pizzas seemed like cardboard compared to this masterpiece. The disappointment of falling on my camera vanished into the warm Napoli air in an instant.
All Da Michele's pie had was crust, sauce, cheese, a piece of basil and some olive oil drizzled on top. Simple and spectacular.
I looked to Elie and Marc, who were savoring every bite of their respective slices. At first, I was worried we loved it so much because we were starving. Then, I remember Isai had already gotten pizza not too long ago while the rest of us were souvenir shopping. He had a relatively full stomach, yet he was still savoring ever morsel like it was the last time he'd ever have that pie.
He later promised it would not be his last time trying that magnificent pizza.
I still want to move over there. Pizza and Italian girls.
After we finished our food, we sat there in an Italian alleyway, talking about the pizza as if it was a summer blockbuster we just finished watching. Everyone had a smile on their face. From the chewy crust to the tangy sauce, every bit of Da Michele's pizza was dissected and analyzed.
If this pizza was a movie, it would have a near perfect Rotten Tomatoes score.
Whenever I tell people I work for Foodbeast, they immediately ask what the best thing I've eaten on the job was. I always drew a blank with so many delicious foods over the years. Now, I'll tell them it was this pizza.
We'll see you again Da Michele. One day.