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Naples - Pizza at Sorbillo's HUGE disappointment

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Ok - what am I missing? On our way back from a fantastic eating voyage in the Amalfi Coast (report to come a bit later) we spent a night in Naples specifically to get pizza. From all the accolades on the internet we honed in on Pizzaria Sorbilla on Via Tribunal.

We were more than willing to wait our share of time, but fortunately, only had to wait about 15 minutes on a busy Saturday night around 9pm. Great - let's do it! We were directed upstairs and shown to a great table where the patrons were happily munching their pizzas and appearing to have a wonderful time. Our server was pleasant enough and took our order for one margherita pizza and one with olives and capers. We were only 2 persons and the pizzas are huge, but they are so inexpensive (3-8 euro each) that we decided to get 2 in order to try a wider variety.

It literally took 5-7 minutes for our pizza to arrive! That should have tipped us off to the main problem. The pizzas were so drastically undercooked that they were not even pleasant. The crust was rubbery and soggy with no sign of the crispness we were craving. The cheese/sauce were and ok taste (nothing fantastic), but so runny from being undercooked. I promise we kept trying to like the pizzas and find what all the hype was about, but we just could not understand.

Unfortunately, we have no other pizza in Naoles to compare this to since we only had one night. Is this a fair representation of Neopolitan pizza and maybe we just don't care for it? Or has the hype been overblown so much that quality has slipped considerably? Did we just catch them on an "off" night?

I do not wish to offend any Sorbillo afficionados with this review, but am honestly curious if our pizza experience was the norm. For now my vote for Best Pizza still remains with Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix Arizona!
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  1. first, sorry you had a pizza that did not satisfy you in Napoli! 'The cooking time was not so surprising in the hot ovens they use.- and the margherita can tend to be swimmy in the middle at some of the places in naples, since the cheese is quite liquid when just melted, but the crust should always be crisp and light, not rubbery or soggy.

    However, just wondering if you went to Gino Sorbillo at 32 Via Tribunale. I dont remember it having an upstairs, but maybe things have changed since I was there or I wasn't observant enough. There is another Sorbillo on the same street (confusing) which is larger - farther in the direction of the station.

    3 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb

      Want to throw in another idea re: soggy, runny cheese. Serious eats just made an interesting experiment, and found out scientifically what we all knew in practice: fresh mozzarella doesn't retain its juice and when heated melts not uniformly initself but releases all the juice (into the pizza dough under it), where as industrial pizza mozzarella is specifically aged so that when heated it melts into a uniform (rubbery) mass. This is why pizzerie that use nice, real, fresh mozzarella are bound to produce pizze soggier than others.

      1. re: vinoroma

        Interesting to know.

        My feeling about classic Neopolitan pizza is that it is a form of pasta, where the bottom is cooked by brief contact with the hot stone while the top steam-cooks rather than bakes under a sauce or cheese.cover. It's meant to be eaten with a knife and fork because that's how you eat a pasta dish.

        The classic pizzerie in Napoli that only use quality mozzerella may result in an even wetter pizza, but I generally only order marinara anyway, and those were still soft centered, like pasta. I think there are many very popular Neopolitan pizzerie serve crustier pizza, something more truly baked, but I tend to think the classic original is a wet pizza.

        1. re: barberinibee

          Since this is inherently a long raised and very light ,airy and yeasty bread product (very different from pasta which is unleavened) I would not accept that analogy except insofar as you are eating a combo of starch and sauce on a plate. Some of the neapolitan pizzas stay crisp and allow you to enjoy the bread aspect..I think focaccia, which is baked dry and raised is a better analog to the classic, which was I assume a much simpler tomato-coated bread. margherita was a development from there, and all the other more or less successful coatings follow. The problem with the fior di latte and bufala is the wateriness when its melted- - its either melted or overcooked andleathery (like the margherita we had at di matteo and other places.

          Barberinibee, I forget - did you check out any of the pizzerie in Vomero?

    2. I don't like eating pizza in Napoli because, while I have never eaten at any of the pizzerie named Sorbillo on via Tribunale, when I have eaten it elsewhere in Napoli, it has been closer to a soft soupy lasagne in many places -- my least favorite of that style being Da Michele.

      I have eaten in other Neopolitan pizzerie where the crust was very yeasty and chewy, more bready and more thoroughly baked with blistered edges, but still soggy centered and never the thin crisp crust that is typical of Roman pizza, which I greatly prefer.

      Neopolitan pizza is so legendary, and no doubt deservedly so, I went out of my way more than once to eat at a variety of highly-recommended pizzerie during my last week-long stay in Napoli. I am now completely satisfied that I simply prefer Roman pizza and I doubt I would ever bother to eat pizza in Napoli ever again because pasta there is so delicious to me.

      1 Reply
      1. re: barberinibee

        I rhink the bread quality in the Neapolitan Pizzas I tried was exemplary,by far the best pizza dough ever, for me, but the Margheritas are a problem. thats why I usually go for the white pies, (for example friarelli and sausage, or speck and arugula) which tend to be dryer on the top and preserve the extremely excellent crust.

        but a difference of opinion on such matters is what makes the world go round.

        ps. I agree with bb's general point about delicious non-pizza food in naples. We didnt even have any pizza on our last visit.

      2. I don't remember an upstairs either; but my wife and I were similarly disappointed. It was the only 'average" pizza we had out of four pizzerias in 24 hours.

        1. I got so curious about this "soggy" pizza style in Napoli that I did a google search for "neapolitan pizza wet more like pasta" and -- sure enough -- came up with blog totally devoted to pizza, which contains an entry about "What to expect at a Neapolitan pizzeria"

          http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives...

          One of the things to expect, according the blogger, is a "soggy" pizza:

          " prepare yourself for the fact that it might be what you would term "soggy." The liquid from the sauce and cheese tend to create a hot, soupy, molten area at the center of the pizza.
          For some reason that I have never understood and probably never will — it is a cultural barrier I have come to accept — Neapolitans seem to like their pizzas with this "wet" center. That means that in some of the more "authentic" Neapolitan pizzerias, you might not even be able to pick it up. You'll have to use a knife and fork."

          1 Reply
          1. re: barberinibee

            "for some reason that I have never understood and probably never will...": the explanation is on another part of the same group blog (serious eats): http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/04/th... in short - if it is fresh mozzarella, it will be soupy. it should make you suspicious if it is NOT soupy.