Anyone who has visited Naples in the past few days and been in the right place on the right day – namely in the pizzeria “Gino e Toto Sorbillo” in the heart of the old town – was able to enjoy a free pizza. And perhaps the tastiest and most original that can be had in Naples: Gino Sorbillo is considered the best of the countless pizzaioli in the city, and he is certainly the most famous.
The campaign with the free pizza, which other pizzerias had also joined, was the answer to an incredible provocation, at least that’s how it was felt in Naples – by Flavio Briatore.
The former Formula 1 team boss and ex-partner of Naomi Campbell and Heidi Klum announced this week that he would open a branch of his “Crazy Pizza” restaurant chain in Naples, of all places, the hometown of pizza.
In these jet set places, which already have branches on the Costa Smeralda, Monte Carlo, London, Rome and, more recently, Milan, the basic version, the pizza margherita, costs 15 euros. Depending on the ingredients, the price list ranges up to 65 euros. In Naples, on the other hand, an original Margherita can be had for as little as four to five euros.
Sorbillo accuses Briatore of creating a pizza for the rich that disregards the soul, history and culture of the dish. “Pizza has always been a people’s dish and should remain so,” Sorbillo said during the free campaign. “It makes everyone happy and full and should remain affordable for everyone: for parents, children, working people, the unemployed, pensioners. Everyone is equal before pizza.”
Not least because of the popular character of the product, the craft of the Neapolitan pizzaioli was included in the Unesco inventory of intangible world heritage in 2017. According to a study, “pizza” is also the world’s best-known Italian word, ahead of “spaghetti”.
Actually, Briatore could have left the announcement of the opening of his “Crazy Pizza” shop. But he didn’t do that in the face of the storm of protests from Naples, on the contrary: he did a lot more. “The pizza has long been international, Naples has nothing to do with it anymore, and I like the one from Salerno better,” explained the 72-year-old entrepreneur and bon vivant.
His pizza is “the best”, as his guests have confirmed. And: “If you sell a pizza for four euros, you can’t make a profit. What kind of ingredients do you think they use?”
The allegation that Naples’ pizzaioli put inferior ingredients on their pizzas has escalated the situation. The dispute over the national dish from the poor south spread to all of Italy. The Milanese “Corriere della Sera” was surprised that the northern Italian Briatore – he comes from Cuneo in Piedmont – feels called upon to give Neapolitans advice on how to prepare a “proper” pizza.
“It’s like the Neapolitans trying to teach the Piedmontese Nutella company Ferrero how to make a chocolate spread,” the paper wrote. And the “Repubblica” from Rome calculated that a high-quality pizza margherita could very well be made for four euros – the pure material costs amounted to a maximum of two euros.
The pizza dispute has long been raging on social networks. It is also occasionally reminded that Briatores Club in Sardinia temporarily became Italy’s largest corona hotspot in the summer of 2020.
The Corona story didn’t help his popularity, and he didn’t make any new friends with his pizzeria plans in Naples either. The following entry was found on Twitter at Briatore’s address: “The most important ingredient of Neapolitan pizzaioli is honesty. Something you don’t have.”