History has shown us that the southern town of Naples is home of the original pizza. However, a young Kuwaiti entrepreneur, and a certified pizzaiolo (pizza chef) for that matter, with a committed ambition to bringing the real Neapolitan tradition to Kuwait has given the Neapolitan pizza a new home, right here in K-town. In a town where we expect everything to be adapted to our local tastes, Amr Al Refai stands defiantly by the traditional wood-fire oven, using a long wooden peel to craftily place the pizza into the oven. He proudly claims, “I wanted to bring the real thing to Kuwait, the authentic pizzeria, where my family, friends, and myself work side by side to produce the unforgettable Neapolitan pizza.”
Following the widespread acclaim from our local bloggers, we meet with Amr before he opens his small pizzeria at promptly 6pm. He settles down with two items for show and tell: a crumpled article about the ultimate pizza indulgence, torn out from our very pages many issues ago, and a small assembled pizzaiolo figurine, which he collected from an old Kinder Surprise egg. His story started back in 2000, with his first visit to Italy. Ironically, Amr had his taste of Neapolitan pizza in Rome, and not Naples, where he was given a small introduction about the differences in crust, toppings, and of course, the history of the Margherita pizza. Using mozzarella, tomato sauce and a sprinkling of basil to represent the Italian flag, the first ‘pizza’ originated in Naples and was created by a local pizzaiolo as a gift to Queen Margherita. Upon his return, Amr came by the article mentioned above, and a little while after the pizzaiolo figurine appeared.
Amr even built his own wood-fire oven in his very own backyard in 2004. Sadly, his keen attempt yielded very unfortunate pizzas, “Let’s say I made fatayer instead.” He laughs. He went back to Naples in 2007 and studied the local pizzerias, practicing with the local masters. Upon coming by a small pizzeria where the owner teaches young apprentices, Amr worked patiently at stations for his education at perfecting the hand rolled tradition. A year later, he was working at a restaurant in Rome for a man named GiulioAdriani, honing his skills further until he reached a point where he was making up to 500 pizzas daily. “Giulio suggested we take part in the local pizza festival, where we would turn over 300-400 pizzas a day. That’s when I knew I was ready.” Amr readily commissioned a local business specialized in crafting the traditional wood-fire oven and shipped the masterpiece to Kuwait.
Noticing the line of customers outside, Amr excuses himself to prepare the first order of the day, that being ours of course! He states, “The menu is limited, but that is the whole point. Less is definitely more when you taste the dough, the sauce, and the cheese.”
Drooling away at the rising aroma of melting mozzarella and smoked cheese, the brief wait for our order seems like eternity. Less than ten minutes pass, and we are presented with the classic margherita, the mozzarella cheese bubbling ever so slightly and the crust artfully browned. We also tried the special pizza of the day, prepared with smoked mozzarella cheese and mushrooms. After a slight sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper, we attack our piping hot dishes. True to its earned certification*, Amr’s pizzas are incredible. With pizzas so light yet bursting with the robust flavor of Italian grown tomatoes, olive oil and aromatic basil, there’s never a rush to leave. People happily wait to get their taste of the authentic Neapolitan pizza, and we thank our lucky stars we came first.
Solo Pizza Napulitana is located in Sharq, behind the Japanese restaurant Tatami. For more information, please visit www.solopn.com or call 9443 4104.
*An association of Neapolitan pizza chefs has standardized the ingredients and methods that have to be used to make pizza certified as Traditional Speciality Guaranteed. Solo Pizza Napulitana is the 1st certified authentic Neapolitan pizzeria in Kuwait, bearing the seal number 353.