Pizza on a board, charcoal oven in the background.

Six pizza hotspots & the art of pizzamaking

Food & entertainment |

The home of pizza Napoletana and cornicione – we’re headed for Naples and beyond!

In 2017, UNESCO recognised the art of the Naples pizzaioli, or pizzamakers, as an example of intangible cultural heritage. If you’ve ever visited the city at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, you’ll know why. Unlike its equivalent from Rome, the base of a pizza Napoletana must be soft and thin. Another defining feature is the crust, known as cornicione, which should be two or three centimetres high. It’s perfectly acceptable for it to contain small heat bubbles, but it must always be airy and properly baked. So where does Düsseldorf stand when it comes to this particular type of pizza, which is growing in popularity around the world? Is original Neapolitan pizza even available here? And are you getting hungry at all? We’ve been exploring the secrets of Düsseldorf’s pizzaioli and we also took a small detour to Sicily.

Pizzaiolo at work: kneading pizza dough by hand.

Red, white, classic at The Way To Napoli pizzeria

The Way To Napoli pizzeria is proof, if it was needed, that the Neapolitan take on pizza has become a culinary tradition far beyond the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. From Naples straight to Flingern, or more specifically to Grafenberger Allee. This venue with its modern décor, comfortable upholstered seats and long counter has space for 90 diners indoors plus another 60 seats outside. But according to owner Mert Coskun, its most important feature is the Valoriani Rotativo, a rotating pizza oven made in Italy. Fuelled with both wood and gas, it has a rotating baking surface that distributes heat evenly and bakes perfect pizzas at 350°C. He recommends the vegetarian La Parmigiana, topped with tomato sauce, fior di latte mozzarella, aubergines and freshly prepared Parmesan cream. The pizza menu includes red pizza – with a base covered in tomato sauce, basil, Parmesan and mozzarella, i.e. the traditional version – but also white pizza, without tomatoes but using a light cream sauce instead. No matter which toppings you opt for, from bresaola and wild broccoli to roasted pine nuts or burrata, the dough beneath the fresh ingredients will have been resting for a full 72 hours prior to baking.

Pizzeria or wine bar? – Nine-O-Five

We’re staying in Flingern. At the Nine-O-Five, the pizza dough is also allowed to rest for three days. However, the genuine Italian stone ovens at Ackerstrasse are hotter than the ones used by the newcomer on Grafenberger Allee. Nine-O-Five stands for 905°F, equivalent to 485°C. At that temperature, it only takes 60 seconds until the pizza is ready. All the same, this is still slow food rather than fast food. Owner Sebastian Georgi sources the high-quality ingredients for his pizzas from sustainable producers, both in Italy and in the local region. Their origin is noted on the menu. Georgi used to be a sommelier, more specifically the head sommelier at a three-star restaurant. Consequently, the wine selection at the Nine-O-Five is pretty impressive – so impressive in fact that the self-styled ‘pizza and wine place to be’ won Vinum magazine’s German Wine List Award 2022 in the World Cuisine category. The focus is on organic wines, including a fair number of natural wines. These are bound to go well with Rocky Bee’s Speckbirne, a pizza with provolone cheese, pears, bacon from South Tyrol, rocket and caramelised walnuts. Admittedly, that is quite a creative interpretation of the Neapolitan original. Tempting starters at the Nine-O-Five include Black Angus carpaccio – with rocket and Parmesan that has been matured for 24 months.

Naples meets New York – Aurora & Vito’s Süßholz pizzeria

Colourful fluorescent tubes, distressed wooden furniture, cheerful splashes of paint – all in all, the interior design emits a strong DIY vibe. But it’s not just the quirky furnishings that make the trip to Düsseldorf’s Derendorf district, where Aurora & Vito’s Süßholz is tucked away on a mainly residential street, well worthwhile. The small restaurant at Sommersstrasse 19 is further proof that it is possible to master the high art of Neapolitan pizzamaking and still maintain a creative approach. First impressions: the pizza base is thin, the crust is thick, fluffy and crispy at the same time. An authentic cornicione that would certainly pass muster in Naples itself. But the products of the stone oven at Aurora & Vito’s Süßholz also incorporate influences from New York, and when it comes to the toppings they score highly for their intricate balance of tastes. The Al Capone pizza is a quattro formaggio composition with buffalo mozzarella, ricotta, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola, garnished with honey and pine nuts, while the Cosa Nostra features mozzarella, salmon, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes and paper-thin slices of lemon. And while the pistachio tiramisu desert may not have any famous, or infamous, namesakes it is still criminally good!

Fresh from the salumeria – Pizza Napoletana

Yes, it’s quite true. Since last year, Giuseppe Saitta, the well-known Düsseldorf restaurateur and city council member, has been running his own pizzeria – right next door to his legendary salumeria (Italian delicatessen) and his Piazza Saitta restaurant on Barbarossaplatz. Anyone who’s at all familiar with the restaurant scene in Düsseldorf will not be the least bit surprised that even deep in the heart of Oberkassel he is sticking to the authentic Neapolitan recipe and refuses to compromise on quality when it comes to the toppings. So what does that mean exactly? For one thing, the dough is allowed to ferment for 72 hours. For another, the three pizzaioli at Pizza Napoletana (all Italians, of course) only use products from the salumeria to create their pizza toppings. Still, it’s a bit of an – impressive – surprise when the Pizza Tonno arrives covered with fresh, hand-cut tuna. Other ingredients, such as wild Neapolitan broccoli, king prawns or summer truffles, further underline the pizza menu’s exclusivity. And it goes without saying that the menu follows the traditional division into pizza classica, with tomatoes, and pizza bianche, along with two vegan pizzas and a sweet version whose toppings include roasted pistachios. Should all of Pizza Napoletana’s 30 spaces be taken, as is often the case, then there is always the option of a takeaway. Or you could enjoy your pizza at Piazza Saitta, as the premises of the two restaurants are linked.

The essence of pizzamaking – Napul’ è

The Napul’ è on Blücherstrasse in Pempelfort previously went under the name of Trattoria Lo Zibellino. But whatever the business is called, the Zobel family has been running it for more than 30 years. Their Neapolitan roots were always apparent, and very much set the tone for everything that happened in the kitchen. Now they are focusing more closely on the art of pizzamaking as practised in Naples, and in the process examining their own origins and traditions even more deeply. The menu at Napul’ è features the restaurant’s established classics, such as the Con Porcini with porcini mushrooms, fior di latte, cocktail tomatoes and fresh rosemary, or the Melanzane e Salsiccia with freshly prepared fennel seed sausage and aubergine, but also Pizza Fritta or Saltimbocca con Porchetta e Patatine, a calzone filled with suckling pig, fior di latte and potatoes (also available as a vegetarian option with roasted vegetables). The atmosphere is welcoming, and naturally there is no hint of cream in the spaghetti carbonara.

A quick detour to Sicily – Pizzeria Romantica

Pizzeria Romantica in Pempelfort has been voted one of the best pizzerias in Germany on Tripadvisor several times. Does the secret lie in the dough? Or is it simply that the pizzas are baked to perfection, with just the right amount of fresh toppings? It’s hard to say. One thing is sure, the reputation of this rather unremarkable looking pizzeria on Düsselthaler Strasse has been built on a long-standing family tradition. In this particular case, not one established on the Italian mainland, but rather in Palermo on Sicily, where owner Salvatore Rattoballi has his roots. For more than a century, since 1921, his family has been toiling over hot pizza ovens. The dough rests for 72 hours, of course, and it goes without saying that the mozzarella is fresh and creamy, while the tomato sugo is subtle and understated. The pizzas are not overloaded, to allow you to fully appreciate the taste of the high quality ingredients. And another thing: the pizzas are really large, if not to say huge! The restaurant’s name may be slightly misleading though. Given how popular this venue is, you won’t be surprised to hear that there are more romantic places in Düsseldorf.

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