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Feb 17, 2009 03:04 PM

Authentic Neapolitan Style Pizza

Having been to Naples this past August, I was spoiled by having the best pizza I have ever had in my life. My goal is to find Bay area restaurants that come as close to authentic Neapolitan style pizza as possible. So far, I've only tried out A16, which was pretty darn good. I've also heard Pizzeria Delfina is comparable.

Any other recommendations? I don't want anything fancy - just good buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Basically, an excellent pizza margherita is all I ask for. As for geographic location, I would prefer recommendation either in the Palo Alto/Menlo Park/Mtn View area, or SF. But if it's really good, I'm willing to drive further...

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  1. A16 is the only VPN-certified place in the area. I don't think you're going to get any closer to the real thing.

    Delfina's worth a try but they use a gas deck oven and the crust is slightly thicker and crisper.

    19 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      As I recall, there was a pizzeria that opened somewhere in the East Bay (around Hayward?) a year or two ago by a guy who was certified as a pizza maker in Naples and won a pizza making contest there.

      I cannot recall the name of the place or its exact location.

      1. re: DavidT

        You're thinking of Pyzano's in Castro Valley, and, BTW, it's been there way-y-y longer than 2 years. Tony Gemigniani, master pizzaiolo and won awards in ITALY for his spinning and throwing techniques. Adam

        1. re: adamshoe

          Yes, that is the one I was thinking of. Thank you.

          Have you tried their pizza? Is it any good?

          1. re: NoeMan

            VERY interesting news! Thanks.

        2. re: DavidT

          Gemignani won the Trofeo Citta di Napoli Championato Internazionale per Pizzaioli in 2007. Unfortunately, he can't make the pizza that won him the prize because Pyzano's doesn't have a wood oven. On at least one occasion he rented one and set up in the parking lot:

          Per tablehopper, he's opening a place called Tony’s Pizza Napoletana / International School of Pizza in the old La Felce / Avenue G / Lou's space in North Beach, so that may change.


          Pyzano's Pizzeria
          3835 E Castro Valley Blvd, Castro Valley, CA 94552

        3. re: Robert Lauriston


          2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            A16 is decent. Wood and not coal. I feel like their margherita was bland in flavor and the sauce was a bit too bitter. I assume they are using san marzano tomatoes (maybe canned) and don't rinse them enough (I understand that slight bitterness is the norm).

            I agree with RL's opinion on Delfina's crust. Their margherita is even more bland than A16's IMO. Their panna with sausage is extremely tasty though so when you go to give that a try and don't even bother with the marg. Their tripe dish is also amazing.

            If you're ever in NY then check out Luzzo's and Lucali's. They easily make my two favorite pizzas. Both very traditional Neapolitan style.

            1. re: EnderWiggin

              i'm very partial to una pizza napoletana in manhattan. a16 will do in a pinch. just wish i could convince them to keep the pizza in the oven for an extra 30 seconds or so.

              1. re: steve h.

                una pizza napoletana is very good as well...but I don't think I like to cut my own pizza haha

                Why do you think A16 should keep it in for an extra 30 seconds? I'm just wondering. My favorite pizza places mostly keep the timing at around 2 minutes (oven at around 750 degrees) and I think A16 hovers around 3 minutes. Maybe their oven wasn't as hot as it usually is the last time I timed it.

                1. re: EnderWiggin

                  i like a little char on my crust. not too much, just enough to influence the overall taste of the pie.

                  upn is a hoot. i always sit up front so i can watch mangieri work.

                2. re: steve h.

                  Just ask for it well done. I do that at Pizzeria Delfina, because I don't think they keep it in the oven long enough. A16 is perfect for me, though.

                3. re: EnderWiggin

                  A16 uses wood because that's the rule for Neapolitan pizzas, not coal. I suspect they'd lose their certification (not to mention run afoul of air quality laws) if they used coal.

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    coal is a new york city thing. i think that may have been ew's frame of reference.

                    1. re: steve h.

                      Yes it was a frame of reference. I'm familiar with the guidelines so I just mentioned san marzano tomatoes and wood not coal just to help describe the pizza.

                      1. re: EnderWiggin

                        I see. Then we agree that A16 is a more accurate representation of traditional Neapolitan style than, say, Luzzo's, which uses coal?

                    2. re: a_and_w

                      Coal ovens aren't allowed in Cali.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    So we finally made it to Pizzeria Delfina last night (the Pac Heights location). We waited for about 40 minutes, which was surprising for a Friday night. My husband ordered the pizza margherita with buffalo mozzarella and pepperoni and I got the same sans pepperoni plus arugula. He didn't care for the pepperoni, but we both really enjoyed our pizzas. There is certainly much thicker, but we got a side of tomato sauce to dip it in, which was the perfect accompaniment. Also, perhaps due to the lack of wood-burning oven, the crust had minimal amounts of charring, which I didn't mind.

                    While I must admit that Pizzeria Delfina is NOT authentic neopolitan style pizza, in the fashion of A16, it is still pretty amazing. I've decided that if you want a taste of Naples, A16 is your best bet, but if you want good pizza and are not picky about its region of origin, then Pizzeria Delfina is most definitely worth going to.

                  3. Gialina claims to make a "Neapolitan-Style" pizza on their website. I had their food and liked it a lot, although I'm not sure how authentic it is compared to Italy. It's a good place to try if you're looking to compare the different pizza offerings around here.


                    2842 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94131

                    9 Replies
                      1. re: Shane Greenwood

                        Gialina's pizza is delicious and I'm a fan. But it's really their own individual style: a rather looser interpretation of "Neapolitan style" than what you'll find at A16. Nothing wrong with that - both these places make very delicious pizza.

                        As you may have gathered from the lack of recommendations, there's nothing close to A16 that I know of in the Palo Alto / Mountain View / Menlo Park area. The closest I've found in the South Bay area so far would be Pizza Antica in Santana Row in San Jose. On a good day is very reminiscent of pizzas I've had in northern Italy. I've heard good things about La Pizzeria in downtown Campbell but haven't tried it yet. I haven't been to Naples yet, but someday...


                        1. re: mdg

                          I'd love to hear a report on La Pizzeria in Campbell. Also has anyone had the pizza at La Strada in Palo Alto lately? It's been a few years since my last visit, but it is wood-fired with a minimalist approach.

                          La Strada
                          335 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                          La Pizzeria
                          373 E Campbell Ave, Campbell, CA 95008

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            I've had the pizza margherita at La Strada. It's sub par in comparison to the rest of these places (A16, Pizzaiolo, Delfina), and not worth the money, at least in my book.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              The pizzas at La Pizzeria look like the pizzas we had in northern Italy, but taste-wise they do not match up. Both the crust and the tomato sauce were too bland. It was decent, but nothing special. The good news I heard about this place was a couple years ago, so maybe it used to be better. The wine by the glass list is excellent, however - we had very tasty glasses of Nero d'Avola and Negroamaro Rosso, the latter the wine special of the week.

                              A16 remains my favorite Bay Area destination for pizza, with Gialina close behind. In this area, Pizza Antica at Santana Row is a better bet.


                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Note that La Strada's original chef has left to open his own place. It's a new ballgame.

                              2. re: mdg

                                I recently moved from Naples (you can see my favorite pizzerie at and tried Gialina. They have very good, innovative pizzas but, as mdg points out, it is a rather--in fact, I would say extremely--loose interpretation of "Neapolitan style." The main difference is that the crust is much harder/crunchier than you would find at any Naples pizzeria--a bit closer to the Roman style, in fact (which is more like a cracker).

                                Gialina probably calls it "Neapolitan style" to distinguish it from New York or Chicago style pizza, but I wouldn't recommend it for someone wanting an "authentic" Naples-style pizza.

                                1. re: skywalkerswartz

                                  Exactly. Some of the pizzas are excellent but not quite Neapolitan.

                                  1. re: epop

                                    Thats why we call it "NEOpolitan"...the same for Pizzeria Delfina......Neopolitan!

                            2. We ate at A16 last year and were underwhelmed. We had arrugula topped pizza and an order of burrata [that was excellent]. The pizza was okay, but nothing special in our book. Crust was too thin and a bit more charcoaled than we like.

                              We had the Salsiccia pizza at Delfina this past Sunday. It was excellent. It had just the right amount of sauce [very fresh and light tasting], mozzarella was creamy, the sausage had a nice flavor [not hot, but not mild either] and it also had juliened red peppers and onions.

                              These transplanted NYer's thought Delfina surpassed A16!


                              6 Replies
                              1. re: DebitNM

                                That makes sense since Delfina is a cross between NY style and Neapolitan, leaning more toward NY. I prefer Neapolitan style and think that A16 is right on the money. I like Delfina in a pinch if I can't get to the other side of town to go to A16 or Picco in Larkspur, but the lack of a wood burning oven seems like a total cop out for Delfina. Gialina and Beretta is a different story for me as I have had inedible pizzas there. In the Bay Area, A16, Picco, and Pizzaiolo are the only pizzerias that make a product that closely resembles true Neapolitan pizza (A16 is more like Da Michele, Picco is more like Trianon, and Pizzaiolo is a bit thicker and chewier like Gorizia in the Vomero).

                                All the pizzas I had when I lived in Naples had very charcoaled bubbles on the edges and were thin and droopy with a soupy center that forced you to eat them with a fork and knife unlike NY pizza which can fold a slice and eat by hand. If anything I wish A16, Picco, and Pizzaiolo did not concede to American tastes and would make their pizzas even soupier and more supple, but then everyone who is not used to that style would complain that they are not crispy and are soggy, specially all the NY transplants.

                                1. re: Amy G

                                  There's no room for a wood oven in Pizzeria Delfina's cramped space. They describe themselves as "Naples meets New York–inspired pizzeria," so it's not false advertising.

                                  1. re: Amy G

                                    Adding links.


                                    5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                    Pizzeria Picco
                                    320 Magnolia Ave, Larkspur, CA 94939

                                    1. re: Amy G

                                      American pizza does NOT need to be any soggier or soupier than it already is.

                                      PS: Full disclosure -- I'm a NY transplant LOL!

                                      1. re: Amy G

                                        La Pizza Fresca Ristorante claims to be the first certified in NY and 93rd in the world, and their pizza is a little soupy like you described. The crust is on the chewy side. This probably isn't what most New Yorkers are looking for when they say they want to find Neapolitan in SF though.

                                      2. re: DebitNM

                                        "These transplanted NYer's thought Delfina surpassed A16"

                                        Doesn't shock me. Delfina is the all around closest to a NY pie.

                                      3. It's not strictly traditional in that they use whatever ingredients they feel like, but I really like the pizza at Zuni. Appropriately sized, thin crusted, and blistered from the wood fired oven, with a nice limited but flavorful topping. The standby is just a sprinkling of ricotta salata, but they also have other pizzas once in a while.

                                        As for pizza in Naples, best pizza ever, really? I found the pizza in Naples to use inferior ingredients and great technique. The sum was certainly greater than the parts, but they were missing certain flavor dimensions due to the low-mid quality mozzarella and sauce. We went to a number of the best ranked places, and pizzas were all less than 5 euros, which just doesn't pay for the best DOP mozzarella. It pays for bargain basement mozzarella.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: SteveG

                                          i've been meaning to try the pizza at zuni for lunch. maybe it's time to quit thinking about it and just do it. thanks for the tip.

                                          1. re: SteveG

                                            The first place we tried Naples had an option of buying cheaper pizza with fior de latte mozzarella or paying a few euros more and getting buffalo mozzarella. We ordered one with each and you could definitely tell the difference. It was pure buffalo mozzarella goodness from then on.

                                            1. re: hmruthi

                                              Wow...that would have made a huge difference. Thanks for the tip.

                                              1. re: hmruthi

                                                SteveG and hmruthi: Please note that "classic" pizza margherita *is* made with fior di latte (i.e. cow's milk mozzarella) rather than mozzarella di buffala (i.e. buffalo milk mozarella). The reason for this is that good, fresh mozzarella di buffala has a lot of liquid, which tends to drench the pizza. That's not to say that you can't get (and enjoy) good pizza which either has small amounts of cooked mozzarella di buffala or fresh mozzarella added after the pizza comes out of the oven (both of which are often called a "D.O.P." pizza, named after the Italian system of protecting the provenance of the cheese), but it's not the classic taste. If you both liked the D.O.P. better than the classic margherita, that's great, but it's just a different dish--not necessarily "inferior ingredients." I've had and enjoy both!

                                            2. Odd to have seen this after just adding a place record for the new Pizza Nostra opening on De Haro at the end of Feburary 2009. According to the Chronicle the chef is a veteran pizza maker from Naples who just moved here a month ago.

                                              Here's the place record.

                                              I didn't link since it isn't open and someone looking for info on the place after it opens would just get this long thread that does nothing but mention the place. Just click on the link if you need address info.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: rworange

                                                The fact that some place has AN Italian in charge of the pizza does not mean much. Tons of places have that, Italians make bad pizza, too, and even more so in the US.
                                                Kind of like the VPN certification, completely worthless, there are some bad pies coming out from these places.
                                                Good pizza is very rare, unfortunately.
                                                And SteveG, there is really good fiore di latte. Most mozz di buf in the US is bad, sour because it has an extremely short shelf life. And no, most people don't know the real taste because what you get in most of the stores is actually sour, though it just seems like that is the taste.
                                                You can use either version of mozz and have a great pie.
                                                Unfortunately, it is worse than a needle in a haystack for greatness.
                                                Maybe goodness but I don't even bother because improvement is so simple.

                                                1. re: dietndesire

                                                  Well, yes ... like another poster ... most of the pizza I had in Naples wasn't much .

                                                  HOWEVER ... the Chronicle makes it sound like this is more than someone off the boat from Naples

                                                  " Giovanni Aginolfi, a veteran Italian pizza chef, will man the stoves - and pizza oven - at Pizza Nostra, the new spot from Jocelyn Bulow (Chez Papa, Chez Maman, Chez Papa Resto).

                                                  Pizza Nostra is scheduled to open later this month in the former Cafe Couleur (300 De Haro St.) at the foot of Potrero Hill, serving Neapolitan-style pizza and focaccia, along with pastas and small plates. Aginolfi, who is from Naples, arrived about a month ago from Europe where he worked most recently on the French Riviera."

                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                    Pizza Nostra finally opened and there is a positive report linked to this place record.

                                                    The website is even working

                                                    They say they have weekend brunch, but at this point only a dozen menu items are on the website.

                                                    From the website ...

                                                    "Pizza chef Giovanni Aginolfi, with 18 years of experience, is one of Europe’s foremost pizza chefs and has worked most recently on the French Riviera. In the World Pizza Championship held annually in Italy, Aginolfi finished in 6th place in 2007 and in 5th place in 2008

                                                    Pizza Nostra includes a large variety of thin crust pizzas, three focaccia offerings (signature recipes from the Italian city of Recco), a dozen small plates, an antipasti bar and a plate de jour main course. The restaurant’s pizza oven utilizes gas heat with a wood scenting feature.

                                                    Check out our gelato bar serving seven or eight flavors, all imported from Italy, and the 35 selections on the Pizza Nostra wine list which are also all Italian imports."

                                                    I'm betting that gelato from Italy is Bindi which Danilo also sells.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      "Wood scenting feature"? That's a new one.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        Yeah, that made me giggle.

                                                        The appetizers currently on the site look good

                                                        Eggplant Involtini, Goat Cheese, Pesto, Tomato Concasse 7
                                                        Burrata and Fava Bean Salad 10
                                                        Grilled Octopus with Chick Peas, Celery and Lemon 9
                                                        Rock Shrimp and White Bean Salad with Mint and Fennel 9
                                                        Steamed Littleneck Clams, Roasted Tomato Broth, Oregano, White Wine and Aioli 13
                                                        Fritto Misto with Lemon, Aioli and Fresh Herbs 9
                                                        Eli's Meatballs Al Forno with Marinara and Parmigiano Reggiano 9
                                                        Oven Roasted Bone Marrow with Gremolata and Garlic Crostini 12
                                                        Garlic Country Bread (3 Slices)

                                                        They have a weird website. You have to scroll to the right a lot to get the full menu.