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Naples: A Trio of Pizzas at Pizzeria Starita

Thought you all might want a little break from my recent ramblings. Here's a field report from Gianluca Rottura (who you might know round these parts as nextgospel). Enjoy! --The Mgmt.

Starita, exterior

[Photographs: Gianluca Rottura]

Unfortunately, I must make this article for Slice as short as possible. If there were no limits, I could write a book on my lunch at Pizzeria Starita. For those of you familiar with Kesté Pizza & Vino in New York City, the co-owner and pizzaiolo there, Roberto Caporuscio, perfected his skills at this Neapolitan landmark, which was featured in the Sophia Loren flick L'Oro di Napoli.

Caporuscio is president of the U.S. chapter of the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani. While he teaches and certifies students across the U.S., Antonio Starita does the same in Naplesa and is the man who taught Caporuscio.

A gentleman in his 70s, Antonio Starita has the energy to somehow personally welcome customers and make a large amount of superb pizzas six days a week. What kinds of pizzas? Well...

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The Montanara at Pizzeria Starita is essentially a Margherita pie with one crucial difference — is first lightly fried and then baked.

First we (my beautiful cousins Eliana and Gerarda, among the many other beautiful ones) started with the Montanara. I guarantee that you would dump your spouse for this pizza or, at the very least, cheat on him or her just to have a few moments with this ... drug? The Montanara is a pizza that is first lightly fried and then baked. The toppings are the same as a Margherita: tomato, mozzarella, and basil. I can only tell you that this was true love. It was unconditional.

And there was no offensive fried taste. Frying is an art, and nobody fries like Italians. The double-cooking added a depth to it and made the experience more profound. I'm sure this technique will be cool to copy now.

There is no need to explain the oven, stretching techniques, ingredients, etc., because they are all classically Neapolitan (if you want more, I explain them fully on my site, pizzaandcoffee.com).

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Of course, I had to try the Margherita. I ordered mine with mozzarella di bufala because I am pious.

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The Pizza del Papa, created for Pope John Paul II during the Jubilee of 2000, during which the Pope blessed pizza-makers.

And I had to try the Pizza del Papa. Starita invented this pizza and prepared it for Pope John Paul II for the Jubilee in 2000; it can also be found at Kesté. Having eaten it many times at Kesté, while explaining to Caporuscio that Inter sucks and Roma is better, I was curious how his teacher made it.

Well, I had to cheat on the Montanara to do that. I warmly kissed the toppings of butternut squash cream, roasted peppers, smoked mozzarella, and, the love of my life, zucchini flowers.

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The third pizza was a beautiful Walnut Cream with Zucchini Flower pie (above). I quickly surrendered as I drank La Grotte del Sole, a popular Gragnano.

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I was falling in love over and over. And that's when Starita passed by with Il Corno di Maradona. I stopped him and took a picture as he explained (but I forgot) what was in it. Anyway, it's a U-shape fried-pizza dough with stuffing. I was too full to pursue.

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But Starita wouldn't let me digest. He forced me to eat angioletti for dessert. How could I resist? It's fried pizza dough sprinkled with sugar and covered with Nutella.

And who is Antonio Starita? What does his oven look like? Here you go:

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Antonio Starita with me and my cousins.

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The oven at Pizzeria Starita.

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