Pizza is synonymous with the backstreets of Naples, where it came into being around 300 years ago to feed an overcrowded, hungry city—one of Europe’s most important capitals at the time. Today you can find pizza in every corner of the world and creative interpretations that veer far from the classics (for better or for worse). But few things in life beat the genuine pizza napoletana (particularly if you’re fortunate enough to sample it in its home town), and the only thing better than that is enjoying it with the perfect wine. We offer five pairing suggestions to try out.
1. Margherita with Gragnano
In the traditional Neapolitan pizzeria, Gragnano is the wine of choice: a wine produced for the people, just like pizza. Huge quantities of it would be carted to the city in small wooden barrels from the beautiful Sorrentine Peninsula. It would arrive just after the harvest—still fermenting—with youthful, winy aromas and a slight pleasant effervescence. Gragnano Ottouve from the Grotta del Sole winery is the best for the classic Margherita pizza (made with San Marzano tomatoes and fior di latte mozzarella). A vibrant, subtle and aromatic red that best embodies the typical grape varieties of the Sorrentine coast. Amongst the grape varieties in the blend, we find Piedirosso and Aglianico, but also Suppezza, Suppegna, Castagnara, Sciascinoso, Sauca and San Vincenzo.
2. Margherita with Prosecco
Sniffing out the commercial potential of pizza, many producers of sparkling wine (both Metodo Classico and Charmat method) have ridden the wave of success. It’s a welcome fact then that Italy’s most famous sparkling wine—Prosecco–-pairs splendidly with the national favorite food. BiancaVigna is a winery specialized in the production of Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Extra Dry, notable for its quality and quaffability. What’s more, Prosecco can give a sense of occasion to an evening in a pizzeria!
3. Marinara with Lacryma Christi
The simple Marinara pizza—just tomato, garlic and a sprinkle of oregano—is the ultimate test of a pizza makers: the ingredients are few and simple, therefore its success depends on the skill and experience of the pizzaiolo. To pair, we return to Campania with the timeless classic: Lacryma Christi by Villa Dora, where the Piedirosso grape speaks for itself, its character exalted by competent winemakers.
4. Sausage and friarielli with Chianti Classico
Pizza topped with sausage and friarielli, a Neapolitan broccoli with an incomparable flavor, is a recent but popular invention. A good choice for a winter’s evening, both for flavor and ingredients, but so popular that pizzerias serve it all year round. In this case I suggest a Tuscan wine we all know and love: Chianti Classico, particularly Badia a Coltibuono’s version. Light in body, unforgettable in its expression, it has the weight of history that the lightness and the vivacity of Neapolitan pizza supports and enhances.
5. Fried pizza with Bardolino Chiaretto
Pizza fritta—fried pizza with ricotta and pork crackling—is easily the most decadent choice on any menu. Immortalized in the 1954 film, The Gold of Naples, where the stunning Sofia Loren fries up and sell pizzas to passers-by, pizza fritta is a historical street food which still enjoys great success today. And with this we return to sparkling wine—the ideal match for fried food—this time in rosé form. We suggest Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante by the Villabella winery on Lake Garda, a region historically dedicated to the production of rosés, in constant growth and evolution.
6. Vegetarian with Verdicchio
We’ll end off with the vegetarian pizza, invented to make use of a beloved Neapolitan vegetable: the curly endive. When topped on a pizza alongside black olives, capers and mozzarella, the result is pure bliss that calls for a white wine. Verdicchio by Matelica di Collestefano is surely one of the best expressions of the Verdicchio grape, where the pure divine flavor of the wine lives in complete harmony with an almost maniacal attention to environmentally friendly agriculture.
English version: Simone Gie