Via Colletta 46, Naples, IT 80139 (map); +39 081-553-9426
Pizza Style: Neapolitan
Oven Type: Wood-burning
The Skinny? This circa-1922 pizzeria serves as classic an example of the Neapolitan pie as you can find
Price:€6 to €9
Notes: Daily 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Pizzeria Trianon dates back to 1923 and was perhaps named after the treaty of Trianon signed in 1920. Today the name seems to imply a different detente, that between the strict orthodoxy of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana with its dogmatic laws governing ingredients and provenance and that of a broader, more liberal vision of pizza. But also between a deeply parochial, locals-only restaurant and a tourist-friendly, welcoming one. While the most traditional pizza—the Margherita DOC and the marinara—are the first things on the menu, and with the DOC being highlighted in the form of a larger typeface than all other menu listings, there are more than 20 variations on offer, with the menu descriptions printed in English.
Trianon spans three floors. Get there early, instantly exposing yourself as a tourist (and most likely American, where we dine shockingly early by continental standards), and you will be seated all the way at the top of the restaurant, which is filled from top to bottom as patrons arrive. Or perhaps, more likely, they make only the tourist climb the stairs.
Marching up the narrow, winding staircases past the ovens and rows of communal tables that inhabit each floor until you reach the top serves to heighten your sense of expectation. At least it does if you, like me, are somewhat obsessed with pizza and are experiencing it at its source (or should that be sauce?).
It is doubtful that locals would feel compelled to take pictures of their pizza, let alone take a picture of the pizzaiolo himself, nor treat the ovens, despite the fact that they often have a picture of a saint on them, with the reverence usually reserved for religious effigies. In fact, I doubt that a traveling Neapolitan would do as much in the U.S., pausing to take a snap before biting in to a juicy burger. Italians don't seem to fetishize their food (or ours) the way we fetishize their food (and our own).
Thus, despite the importance of ingredients and of the method of preparation, there is a matter-of-factness, a certain nonchalance, with regard to pizza in Naples. We see it as art, they see it simply as food. They treat pizza the way we treat Levi's jeans and Hollywood films—we take them for granted while the rest of the world swoons over them. So it is with pizza in Naples, where it is both deeply ritualized and at the same time treated somewhat complacently.
The pizzaioli at Trianon go about their work with speed and efficiency and no small measure of the aforementioned nonchalance. Quite unlike the precise monastic diligence of America's pizza masters, such as Dom DeMarco of Di Fara, Anthony Mangieri of the now-defunct Una Pizza Napoletana, or Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco.
Pizza is a volume business in Naples, and while the oven never seems to contain more than three pies at once the pizza cooks so quickly that it takes two workers to assemble the raw ingredients while a third mans the oar-length peel and the domed oven.
The pies emerge from the oven in mere minutes, a feint smoke still wafting off a crust that is mottled with char when the pizza makes it to your table. Order a Margherita DOC, and the fresh buffalo mozzarella will be creamy, tangy with a slight sourness, and perfectly molten. The small tomatoes, despite spending fleeting moments in the oven, are cooked through but only just, retaining the vibrancy and freshness of a raw tomato but also a slightly caramelized sweetness.
The crust, while not devolving into the watery flood that some complain about, will certainly not be stiff enough to sustain the weight of the toppings. Like all true Neapolitan pies it doesn't suffer from tip sag as much as tip melt, requiring a knife and fork to eat. The cornicione emerge, irregular and pronounced, crisp on the outside and puffy and airy within.
The center of the pizza, saturated with the oil and sweet tomato juice takes, on a creamy, amorphous quality, become texturally indistinguishable from the cheese itself. While others have found a pool of disappointment in the uniquely Neapolitan "wet pie" phenomena, I find a wellspring of pleasure. Despite being decidedly moist, the pies at Trianon never become watery, the cheese is melted so expertly that it retains most of its liquid. There is a unique synthesis of flavors that occurs in this soupy melange, something beyond the mere sum of the pies' ingredients. I don't look at Neapolitan pizza as "wet," I see all other varieties as somewhat dry, and ultimately lacking a synergy that the pizza from the source attains.