Posted By: augie on November 6th, 2008
Augie joins us from the saltedespresso
Located across from the bay, Ristorante Ciro a Mergellina is stuck between a row of fish vendors and parked vespas. After first glancing at the menu posted, I thought this might be another done-up tourist trap (The menu was, after all, written in English as well as Italian, good English). But after seeing the fast moving, white-jacketed waiters, I began to see a certain old worldly, almost anachronistic charm to Ciro’s that I haven’t seen in Naples, yet. Finally a place where people could see me for what I truly am; a top-hat wearing, ivory cane twirling gentleman. I lacked the hat and cane, but it was no matter. They gave us a table anyways. In actuality, the only reason we ended up at Ciro’s was because we were completely lost (looking for Neapolitan tombs or something). I saw the pizza di Ciro through the big glass window and decided to give it a shot.
What I ate: a Margherita
What Margaret ate: nothing. She sat there, drinking a coffee and complaining about stomach problems
A very thin, incredibly chewy crust that reminded me of flat bread in some strange way. There was also something pleasantly sweet to the dough. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what the flavor was, and I doubt very much there was any sugar added. That is, after all, a big no-no in Naples. But still, I enjoyed having to work through each bite. Whatever made the crust so chewy also made it very flimsy. This pie was an unabashedly soupy pizza.
A fork and knife kind of pizza. Scratch that. A spoon and straw kind of pizza.
I was both excited and little bit terrified to cut into this pizza. I watched my knife go through first, a level of oil on top, then a creamy thickness of buffalo mozzarella and tomato sauce, and finally another layer of oil that “separated” the sauce from the crust. In reality, I couldn’t tell where the toppings stopped and the dough began. This pizza was a swamp of flavor.
In fact, I’ll go so far as to say this was the definition of a soupy pizza. Sitting next to the Mediterranean sea, staring at the large aquarium filled with fish that would surely soon be someone’s meal, I got the impression that “soupy” might have been exactly what they were going for. Maybe “oceanic” is a better word. Naples is known to have world class sea food and perhaps this pizza is a tribute to the sea without making you eat anything from it. Wait, so its possible that someone actually tried to make a soupy pizza? It’s not just the result of using fresh tomatoes and creamy cheese? Maybe. This realization came as a little bit of a shock to me, considering my own philosophy on crust, which states that cardboard thin pizza is good, but only as good as the toppings it can literally, support.
So did the pie at Ciro a Mergellina win me over to the soupy side? Not really. Most days, I’m still going to prefer a slice with structural integrity over one lacking a backbone. But that’s just me. If you want to try a good soupy pizza, and I mean a really good soupy pizza (and I think you do), go down to the metro, hop on the blue line, and get off at the stop labeled ” The marshlands of pizza: Ciro a Mergellina”. If you can’t find that stop, and the woman at the information desk stares at you, just get off at the “Mergellina” stop instead.
I’ve briefly mentioned the mozzarella already. But its worth saying again; an abundant amount of an overly creamy cheese. Some of richest I’ve had so far. At the risk of offending cheese lovers, I might even say there was a little bit too much. No, wait, that’s impossible. The most renegade and, perhaps, my favorite part of this margherita pizza was its inclusion of Parmesan. Neapolitans are very strict about what constitutes a margherita pizza (mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil. that’s it). Parmesan definitely can’t be thrown on as an afterthought. In fact, since my arrival two weeks ago, I’ve almost entirely forgotten about parmesan (the mozzarella has been that good). But this pie brought it back to me in a very refreshing way. The sharp, aged flavor of the parmesan helped balance the richness of the mozzarella and also complimented the chewy sweetness of the dough. Throw in the tanginess of the tomato sauce and bam! you’ve got yourself a very complex, very tasty pie.
I would recommend grabbing a pie at Ciro’s to anyone, just so long as they know what they are getting. This is a very creamy, very rich pizza. Just make sure that your stomach can handle it because I promise your taste buds won’t be disappointed. I will give Ciro’s Pizza in Naples, Italy 5 out of 8 slices.