New Things to Do on the Back of a Vespa

Raffaele Esposito was a chef in Naples, Italy, at the end of the 19th century.  He was asked to create a dish in honor of the Queen consort of Italy, a woman named Margherita.  Different versions of pizza – sauce on flat bread – had been around, oh, since the Neolithic Age.  But Esposito, who wanted to use the colors of the Italian flag (red, white, and green) garnished his bread with tomatoes and basil and — brilliantly — added cheese.

Cheese makes everything better, doesn’t it?

So Naples, Italy, is the birthplace of pizza as we know and love it.  Ten minutes after we got off the train in Naples, we were in a car headed to Pizzeria da Michele, purportedly the best pizza place in the place that invented pizza.  At least, that’s how Elizabeth Gilbert described it in her mega-bestseller Eat, Pray, Love.

The line was out the door.  Michele had a 45-minute wait, and we had a tour of the ruins of Pompeii in one hour.  We asked our driver, Franco, if Michele had carryout.

“Si, si,” he nodded, then elbowed his way through the crowd.  Ten minutes later, he emerged, carrying six large pizzas (a bargain at less than $6 each).

We were on the sidewalk of a crowded city street.   Cars and scooters were randomly parked up and down the street, three cars deep in some places.  Franco set the pizza boxes down on the back of a stranger’s Vespa, and we inhaled those pizzas while standing around that bike.

Yes, it was delicious.   And yes, it would have been worth the 45-minute wait.

And yes, we wiped the wayward sauce off the poor guy’s Vespa before we climbed back into our cars and headed to Pompeii.

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