Pepe in Grani is a legendary pizzeria near Naples, Italy, and considered by many to make the best pizza in the world. We went to try it for ourselves!
Pizza was being eaten regularly in the streets of Naples by the mid-1700s, and it has only grown in popularity since. There are TONS of pizzerias, so to say that one is the best in all of Italy is quite the claim. Don’t take our word for it, though – listen to the pros, and then go decide for yourself!
Recommended by an Italian Chef – in Japan
I first heard about Pepe in Grani when I was eating some delicious pizza napoletana in Okinawa, Japan. An Italian chef, Stefano, using Italian ingredients in a traditional oven, makes carefully crafted pizzas at the restaurant “Burrata.”
Stefano gave me a list of the best pizzerias in Napoli, but told me about the best in all Italy: Pepe in Grani. So, naturally, we added it to our list of “must-do’s.”
Awarded the Best Pizza in Italy – 3 Years Running!
Franco Pepe started Pepe in Grani in 2012, but his family has a baking history that spans four generations in Caiazzo, just outside of Caserta. Due to flour shortages, Sig. Pepe’s grandfather was one of the few who was allowed to make bread during WWII. His skills were passed from father to son until today, where Franco’s son is already working with him and learning the art.
For the past 3 years, 50 Top Pizzas has awarded Franco first place for best pizza. Just this last June, Franco Pepe was decorated as an Official Knight of Merit of the Italian Republic for his efforts. Not only are his pizzas works of art – he also revolutionized Caiazzo, the small town that hosts Pepe in Grani. The pizzeria draws in crowds from all around the world now, and the whole city is benefiting.
We were lucky enough to meet the master chef before our meal. He arranged a tour of the entire establishment, and he also met with us after we finished our amazing experience.
Time to Eat
I went in with high expectations, having heard this is supposed to be the best. We let the waitress choose our appetizer for us, and from the beginning, our high expectations were exceeded! We first ate a “Colpo Doppio,” a cone of fried pizza dough filled with melted Mozzarella di Bufala DOP, eggplant-parmigiano cream, bits of Grana Padano DOP cheese, a basil reduction, and a violet basil leaf. We can list the ingredients and show you pictures, but your wildest imagination will have a hard time doing justice to these bites of deliciousness.
Next, it was time to order the pizza, where agreed that three pizzas should be enough for the two of us. Our waitress thought we should get fewer pizzas and make half of each a different flavor. We could not be persuaded and went with the three!
La pizza autentica napoletana traditionally comes as a pizza margherita or pizza marinara, simple pizzas, with few ingredients. That doesn’t mean they are easy to make, nor does it mean eating them cannot be exquisite.
There are countless variations, of course, and the pizzas we tried were progressively more complex, yet never overwrought.
Eating these creative masterpieces was an emotional experience. I believe that this comes from three principal factors:
1. Impeccable quality of the ingredients
2. Balance/harmony between the flavors
3. Skill in preparing, handling and baking
The result highlights the work of a long chain of talent and unseen effort. Think of the grain farmers, the cheesemakers, the tomato growers and others. Many people have worked hard and refused to sacrifice quality in order to bring this marvelous experience together. I truly felt emotional – happy, lucky, privileged – while we ate.
Pizza 1: La Margherita Sbagliata (“Messed-up Margherita”)
Pizza 2: La Scarpetta (“Clean the plate”)
PIzza 3: Grana, Pepe e Fantasia (Grana cheese, pepper and fantasy)
We were so full but decided to try some dessert anyway. Again we took the recommendation of our now-trusted waitress and found our taste buds delighted once more. We really only needed one, the Straccetti Miele e Rosmarino. It is fried pizza dough covered with cinnamon and sugar, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with orange zest. This is paired with a dip made from ricotta di bufala cheese, orange zest and rosemary. I would go back weekly for the appetizer, La Scarpeta and the dessert!
Plan your trip to Pepe in Grani:
Make a reservation. The first time we visited Pepe in Grani, we arrived at 7:30 without a reservation. We waited until 9:30. We finally left after the people next to us said they had a reservation for 8:30 and were still waiting! The second time, with a reservation, we got there at about 6:45 and were promptly seated just after 7:00.