Chef Michele Pascarella’s tryst with pizza began during his childhood. He started working at a pizzeria in his hometown of Caserta—located near Naples, Italy—when he was only 11 years old. He then had to move to London in 2016 at the age of 19, and started selling pizzas out of a tiny truck. Pascarella’s aim was to create awareness in the city about the wonders of a real Neapolitan pizza—the kind that he grew up eating. He has come a long way since then. What started as a small food truck grew into a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Napoli on the Road, in 2019.
While his flagship restaurant is located in Chiswick, Pascarella’s second outlet has opened in Richmond. Not just that, last year, he also won the title of the best pizza chef at the World 50 Top Pizza Awards. Today, people from cities across the world—New York, Madrid, Paris, Delhi—make it a point to visit Napoli on the Road when they are in the city.
Today, he is acknowledged as the pioneer of contemporary pizzas, bringing a certain degree of innovation to the traditional Neapolitan pizza. For one, he is known for introducing the high crust to the UK. For Pascarella, the perfect crust is one that combines a crispy exterior with a soft interior, thus achieving a harmonious balance—one that enhances the overall pizza experience.
However, to him, innovation need not happen just for the sake of it. “Contemporary pizzas often experiment with diverse toppings and crust styles, departing from Neapolitan tradition. One needs to find a balance between innovation and respect for classic flavours and techniques,” says Pascarella, who was in India in December 2023 as part of a collaboration between Masters of Marriott Bonvoy and Culinary Culture. As part of this, he curated a seven-course meal celebrating the best at Napoli on the Road. Guests got to try some of his signature pizzas such as Terra, made on a white base with truffle-baked potato, shiitake mushrooms, for di latte and fresh black truffle, and the Cheesewick featuring buffalo ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, blue dry Stilton, parmigiano reggiano chips, buffalo stracciatella, and piennolo cherry tomato jam.
In a recent interview with Slurrp.com, he elaborated on his process. “There is only one formula for making excellent pizza: staying 100% focused on work and quality… . Making a menu for a chef is like making an album for a singer, where we mix different creations to make everything pleasant and fantastic.
Childhood memories inform a lot of his signature creations such as the Ricordi d’Infanzia pizza with Neapolitan ragu and parmigiano reggiano cream. This pizza is infused with nostalgia and carries with it memories of Sunday breakfasts with his family. While growing up, he would wake up every Sunday to the smell of the slow-stewed ragu being made by his mother, which was cooked on low heat for 8-10 hours, bubbling away till the family was ready to eat. That ragu embodies the ideas of happiness, family and togetherness for him. And Pascarella hopes that his diners experience the same feeling of love when they taste his pizzas.