They are believed to be the oldest standing pizzeria in the world. Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba opened its doors to slinging pizzas dating back to 1830. Where? In the birthplace of pizza of course: Napoli!
My first day in Naples I was travelling solo and wanted to make use of my time wisely… Naturalmente, I opted to go on a food tour! The one place that my pinchables really took to was Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba (Thanks, Susy!).
Situated on the north-west edge of Piazza Dante, you’ll see the Port’Alba city gates that lead you through an arched pedestrian alleyway. Right through that alleyway is where Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba has been holding up for the last 187 years!
Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba is off the bustling main street of Via Tribunali, a mere 5 minute walk away. My first visit here, I was introduced to a local red wine from the Campania region called ‘Lacryma Christi’. Legend has it that, “God cried when he found a corner of Heaven stolen by Lucifer and where his tears fell, there grew the grapes that make Lacryma Christi, translated as ‘tears of Christ.’” No matter how ‘Lacryma Christi’ came about, this chilled red is delissssssh!
Our little tour group was also given the ‘Spaghetti alla puttanesca’. For such a simple and lovely spaghetti dish, it’s rumoured to have come from the red light districts of Naples. The name derives from the word puttana, which simply translates to prostitute. There are many versions of its origins, one being that this dish was simple enough to be whipped up with the remaining ingredients that were left in the kitchen during the hush of the night for brothel customers and prostitutes to recover from their vigorous lovemaking.
Another tale goes on to say that these beautiful women lured men into their houses with the fragrant smells of this dish. Some restaurants prefer to call this dish by its more elegant name, ‘spaghetti all bella donna’, which means ‘spaghetti to the beautiful women’.
The famous architect Sandro Petti, owner of restaurant and nightclub Rangio Fellone, also makes his claim to creating the ‘Spaghetti alla puttanesca’. The Ischian architect and restauranteur goes on to say how one late night in the summer of 1949, a couple came to his restaurant and asked to be served, but alas there was nothing left in the kitchen. All that was left were some cherry tomatoes, olives and capers. He famously said, “bhe mo vi combino na cosa…. facciamo una puttanata,” which roughly translates to, ‘We can combine what ingredients we have and make like a prostitute.’ Et voilà, ‘Spaghetti alla puttanesca’ was born.
Regardless of how ‘Spaghetti alla puttanesca’ came to be, it is one damn heavenly dish! Because there are so little ingredients used, the simplicity of this dish is highlighted by the freshness of the produce used. And in saying that, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba can definitely whip up a mean plate of ‘Spaghetti alla puttanesca’. Holy moly, you can taste how fresh and flavourful their tomato sauce is. All thanks to these Mount Vesuvius grown cherry tomatoes, pomodrini de piennolo. These piennolo cherry tomatoes are braided into clusters to hang, giving way to its name, ‘piennolo’ which means hanging in the Neapolitan dialect. Its robust, earthy flavour comes from the minerals in the rich volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius. I’m kicking myself for not buying a jar of these pomodrini de piennolos from Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba.
On my second day in Naples, I trekked out to two different pizzerias only to be dismayed with a ‘closed for the holidays/renovation’ sign. Due to the fact that I was in Naples during the end of August, A LOT of the highly rated pizzerias were closed for holidays. After almost 2 hours of walking on narrow and cobblestone roads, I decided to head back to Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba since I knew it was open.
Let’s just say that my feet and pinchables were mighty grateful ???? My tour guide Susy had raved about the ‘Amalfi pizza’ being her favourite pizza at Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba and so an Amalfi pizza was what I got. I couldn’t get over how good the ‘Spaghetti alla puttanesca’ was from the day before and asked the server if I could have a half portion instead. He was kind enough to oblige! If I was aware that one could order half-sized pizzas, I would have ordered my Amalfi pizza as a ‘sole nella luna’ (sun in moon; sun being the golden cherry tomatoes in the half moon shaped pizza) as well.
Man oh man oh mannnnnnnnnnn. It’s no wonder she called the Amalfi pizza her favourite! The flavours of the Amalfi coast in a pizza! Unlike any other pizza I’ve had, these flavours worked so beautifully together… Mozzarella di bufala, colatura di alici, capperi salina, limoni di Sorrento, formaggio pecorino, basilico, olio evo e pepe (buffalo mozzarella, a clear liquid sauce made from the juices of salted anchovies, capers, Sorrento lemon zest, pecorino cheese, basil, and extra virgin olive oil). Gosh, just describing that makes me famished. ????
The pizza dough base was gooooood. Not thick at all nor too thin, with just enough chew. I had to stop myself from eating all of the pizza crust to reserve some place for my half portioned ‘Spaghetti alla puttanesca’!
My bill came to a measly 20 euros for a full sized pizza, a half portion of pasta, and a glass of wine. As I was paying, an older gentleman noticed that I was taking pictures and asked if I could take one of him and his son who was behind the till. Funnily enough, it happened to be the owner of Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, Gennaro Luciano. I mean duh, Lili, can’t you see his picture is behind the till anyways ????
It’s true, if you look up Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, there will be mixed reviews about the service, but I happened to receive good service and since I had gone during non-peak hours, there wasn’t much of a wait between my meals. What I can say for sure is that I had the most wonderful ‘Spaghetti alla puttanesca’ and Amalfi pizza here. Just go and tell the servers the ‘Tiger of Malaysia’ sent you haha! Ciaoooooo!
May The Pinchables Be With You,
Location: Via Port’Alba, 18, 80134 Napoli NA, Italy
Hours: Monday to Sunday – 11:30am to 1:30am