After a substantial lunch at Europa, Naples’ most famous global export seemed the way to go in the evening. Sorbillo or Da Michele with their famously long lines of Margarita devotees didn’t tempt so somewhere random and local fitted the bill. About 90 seconds walk from my hotel I came across ‘Donna Regina’, a small joint with walls covered in certificates, ubiquitous team shots of Napoli FC and Maradona and a sepia photo of a lovely looking Nonna. Although I doubted she was kneading the dough out back, it felt authentic enough:
Step forward the world’s surliest restaurant employee. He looked like a Neapolitan cousin of Jack Black mixed with Jack Sparrow after a particularly heavy night and eyeballed me as if I had called into question his grandmother’s good reputation. ‘Jack’s’ complete disregard for basic human courtesy was borderline impressive. After being shouted at for trying to pick up a menu, not knowing I should order from the grubby list taped to his desk, I then apparently committed the cardinal sin of not stating in the same sentence whether I also wanted a drink or side dish.
Emulating Seinfeld’s soup Nazi (left) is a risky but potentially lucrative marketing ploy. A subsequent look online told me that Jack was the real deal. He responds to negative comments on travel forums with a stream of putdowns, mainly based on the head size of his clearly beloved clientele. Genuine pearls from him include:
“Una testa come la tua non la si sorregge con un colletto, la si nasconde nei pantaloni” – “Your head is so enormous it can’t be held up with a collar, you should hide it in your trousers.” (ie you are fat and also have a massive arse)
“Io gli ho chiarito che Spacco le Teste dalla mattina alla sera, figuriamoci un Testone!” – “I told him I bust heads all day, every day, let alone his massive head” (A not particularly well-veiled threat)
He barked again, this time across the completely empty dining room to the kitchen where someone in grubby whites grunted back. So far, so disastrous. No more than 180 seconds later, grubby whites comes out carrying my take-out box featuring a black and white photo of Nonna. Some marketing guru had a really tough call to make – do I use sweet ol’grandma’s photo or Jack’s snarling mug?
4 euros (yup) and another 180 seconds later I’m back in my room at the Palazzo Caracciolo. I lift Nonna’s lid expecting the worst but it is, of course, an absolute revelation. Amidst the torrent of abuse from Jack I’d even forgotten what I had ordered so am greeted by Cavolo Nero cabbage, beautiful local salsiccia (sausage) and mozzarella. That’s it. All distinct but all complimentary. The forno so hot it cooked in about a minute, the lightly blackened base perfect, the crust just as good as the main event. And no oil. None. After I’d finished it (again, gone in 180 seconds) the box was still bone dry.
So for possibly the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, an absolute steal at 4 euros, along with the rudest and most belligerent waiter of all time, thank you.
Donna Regina, Via SS. Apostoli, 4, Napoli – +39 081 442 1511 (They have a website but it just yells ‘SITE IN CONSTRUZIONE’ at you. Must be Jack doing the typing.)
It’s the impossible list, the reflection of a year of dining experiences which prove, despite everything, that Hong Kong is still one of the world’s greatest restaurant cities. These are not in any order of preference – and there are always some which I will have shamefully neglected or forgotten. Some may say they’re too …