Little Napoli Pizzeria is a tiny pizzeria located on a side street of Happy Valley in the heart of Hong Kong. And it serves authentic Neapolitan pizzas, stuffed pizzas, and baked sandwiches. Impressively, they are baked to order in an Italian stone oven, which was custom made in Italy for the pizzeria. Because there are only a few seats, most diners get their pizzas to go.
The Back Story
Chef Gavino Pilo has a passion for pizza. Born and raised in Naples, Italy, he got his start as an apprentice pizzamaker working for free. “It’s the only way you can master the necessary skills,” he says, adding that before that he was an interior designer.
“When you go to buy pizza in Naples, each pizzeria has a different style,” Chef Gavino says.
“For me, it was like when a DJ plays music. I was fascinated by pizza making. So the next step for me was to take it to another level.”
More than 10 years ago, Chef Gavino was recruited to be a pizzaiolo, or pizza maker, at an upscale Italian restaurant in Hong Kong, which had a Neapolitan style pizzeria inside. Deciding to strike out on his own, he opened Little Napoli Pizzeria in Happy Valley a decade later.
And that’s when his background as an interior designer paid off. In fact, he was able to do all the design work himself, including the interior space, the shopfront, the menus, and the packaging.
And talk about timing! He opened just about the same time that the pandemic was forcing restaurants to stop serving dine-in customers after 6 pm. So the good news is, because he was focusing on takeaways anyway, there was a ready market for takeaway pizzas in the neighborhood.
Only the freshest ingredients are used. And the sauce is made daily from fresh tomatoes, which are special ordered from Italy.
The dough is made fresh daily and allowed to rise.
Each pizza is made after it is ordered because they taste better hot!
And believe it or not, they only take 90 seconds to two minutes to bake in the 400-degree Centigrade oven, which was custom-made in Italy to Chef Gavino’s specifications.
Little Napoli Pizzeria serves a simple menu of Neapolitan pizzas, Ripieno Fritto stuffed pizzas, and baked Panuozzo sandwiches made with pizza dough.
To clarify, there are five kinds of classic pizzas and five kinds of special pizzas. But what you won’t find are pizzas topped with pineapple. My kind of place!!!
Wash it all down with Peroni, a traditional Neapolitan beer, or a soft drink. For dessert, there is a ricotta-stuffed puff pastry pocket, which you can wash down with an authentic Italian espresso.
I sampled the Margherita Pizza Classica, which bore little resemblance to the Margarita pizza I had ordered a couple of weeks earlier at another restaurant. OMG! The crust was thick, chewy, and charred. And I LOVED it.
As I said to Chef Gavino, “I feel like I’m eating pizza for the first time!” And I washed it down with a bottle of Perini, a beer popular in Naples.
Neapolitan Pizza Defined
So what makes a Neopolitan pizza distinct from other types of pizza?
Originating in Naples, Neapolitan pizzas are prepared exclusively with simple, but fresh ingredients. And that includes nothing more than a basic dough, raw tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and olive oil.
So where did the Margherita pizza get its name? Margherita pizzas were named after the legendary Queen Margherita of Savoy (1898 – 1910). With only tomatoes, which are red, mozzarella, which is white, and basil leaves, which are green, they reflect the colours of the Italian flag.
To clarify, a Margherita pizza has no relationship to a Margarita, the Mexican cocktail made with tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice. However, many restaurants – including pizzerias – do erroneously spell it that way.
How to Eat Pizza Like a Napolitano
Interestingly, Chef Gavino doesn’t use a wheel cutter to cut his pizzas. So what does he use – and why does he use it?
“Back in the day, we didn’t have wheel cutters in Italy because actually they are from America, ” he says.
“And at home, everybody had scissors. So my mom was a tailor. And she used exactly this type of scissors.” he says, holding up a pair.
“So I decided to buy the same kind to remember my mom every time I cut pizza.”
Because Napolitano pizzas are much softer than other kinds of pizza, you can’t simply pick them up the way you do with other types. So how should you pick a piece up?
“You need to roll it to pick up a slice,” Chef Gavino says. “It’s not like an American pizza. You need to roll it.”
The pizza was HK$188 and the beer was HK$38. So the total damage came to HK$226, or US$29.
Little Napoli Pizzeria – 8 King Kwong Street, Happy Valley, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 6882-1823.
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