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Napoletana Pizzeria, Mountain View

  • m

While driving on El Camino this weekend I saw the "coming soon" sign here in the old Cafe Mazeh space. Will we actually get a reasonable facsimile of Italian-style pizza in Mountain View? It would be a first!

Any good pizza here, no matter the authenticity, would be welcome. Their minimal web site says it will be wood-fired pizza. Does anyone know more about the background of the folks running it?

Michael

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Napoletana Pizzeria
1910 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

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  1. Oh, Cafe Mazeh! :-( I used to live in the neighborhood and it was such a nice mom and pop restaurant. Sad - but I do agree that MV is badly in need of good - or even decent! - pizza.

    1. Mazeh will be missed (was missed, a couple weeks ago, when some of us tried to go there for lunch!) and in an eclectic menu, it offered a few very unusual pizza-type creations too.

      Wood-fired pizza sounds great! But also I'm sorry to read that you folks haven't found anything you liked from MV's 18 existing dedicated pizzerias. I don't think MV currently has anything to compete with say A16 in SF or "Howie" Bulka's remarkable little post-Marché pizzeria in the Palo Alto Town&Country. But I tried most of those in MV below (excepting a couple big chains) a few times each the last couple years, finding some very worthy pizzas:

      MV's Amici's downtown has consistently shown pretty high standards in its 10 years (try the [sautéed] mushrooms and garlic, which arrives dusted post-oven with fresh green herbs and with a toasty dark crust). In the last year, Zpizza, the So-Cal organic franchise now on Castro, delivered about Amici's quality at lower menu prices with wider ingredients selection, the widest l've seen -- and screamingly good value at the moment because of all kinds of daily and short-term specials (their hand-pulled odd-shaped "rustica" pizzas like pear & gorgonzola, $8.95 normally, are now 2-for-1 through January and have been _not bad at all_ in several experiences). Actually I just had some of three of their pizzas a couple days ago, finishing with the "apple pie" pizza.

      Then there's Venti, off 101 opp. Computer History Museum, a franchise from Tuscany contractually obliged to use both EVOO and Italian water (no I am not making this up) in the dough, and has a couple different pizza styles. One the modern Italian style which the proprietress told us are normally baked in a pan there; another, American-style, hand-tossed, like Amici's. Venti is a full Italian restaurant with strong pizza dept. (like Frankie Johnnie Et Aliae) and dazzling refrigerated gelato display. Changed name recently from Pizzeria Venti to Cucina di Venti which I find more descriptive.

      Besides which, the local proud independents (Tony & Alba’s, Maldonado’s, D’Angelo’s) satisfy many locals (who talk about and recommend them locally, including electronically) to which Fast Pizza Delivery, a newish Papa John's outlet, and the small chains New York Pizza and Pizza My Heart add some competition. The last two I found to have a kind of clean straightforward classic US style, like we typically made at home when I was a tyke, while Fast Pizza does really hustle (I've timed them to be consistently the fastest local delivery except for Amici's) with a workmanlike rather good classic style. Papa John's, one of the newest and showing a "we try harder" spirit, successfully made inroads in the last year and a half.

      A recent local article compared all 18 pizzerias on menu price per square inch, for largish one-topping pizzas, and below is the result from highest to cheapest. This had some suprises because the lower half has some well regarded pizzerias on sheer quality, to my tastes. (The ranking is slightly misleading because it's strictly menu prices whereas Round Table, for instance, deluges customers and local addresses with discount offers, but then so does Zpizza, which is in a higher league IMO.)

      I have to mention here that pizzas are also one of the easiest things to make well, or interestingly, yourself. I remember being about 8 or 9, my father was kneading some bread dough when I asked how pizzas are made. To answer, he stretched some dough, sprinkled a little olive oil and dried herbs, added slices of a very ripe tomato and some hasty slivers of cheese and baked it hot and fast and of course it was delicious. (Imagine that, without any sauce, MSG, HFCS, soluble sorbates, or even Butylated HydroxyAnisole. :-)

      [Most expensive, as of late 2010]
      Cucina di [formerly, Pizzeria] Venti www.mvpizzeriaventi.com
      Amici’s www.amicis.com
      Round Table (two locations) www.roundtablepizza.com
      Tony & Alba’s www.tonyandalbaspizza.com
      Milan www.milanrestaurantofmtview.com (Live jazz venue Wed nights
      )Kapp’s Pizza Bar & Grill, 191 Castro
      Frankie Johnnie & Luigi www.fjlmountainview.com
      Domino’s www.dominos.com
      Pizza My Heart www.pizzamyheart.com
      Maldonado’s www.maldonadospizza.com
      Papa John’s www.papajohns.com
      D’Angelo’s, 2464 W El Camino Real
      Zpizza, 146 Castro www.zpizza.com
      Fast Pizza Delivery, 327 Moffett
      New York Pizza www.newyorkpizza.biz
      Pizza Hut www.pizzahut.com
      Little Caesars www.littlecaesars.com
      [Least expensive

      ]

      -----
      A16
      2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

      Amici's East Coast Pizzeria
      790 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

      New York Pizza
      1040 Grant Rd, Mountain View, CA 94040

      Tony & Alba's Pizza & Intalian Food
      619 Escuela Ave, Mountain View, CA 94040

      Maldonado's Pizzeria
      615 S Rengstorff Ave, Mountain View, CA 94040

      Z Pizza
      146 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

      D' Angelo Pizza
      2464 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

      3 Replies
      1. re: eatzalot

        I didn't say there wasn't any pizza I liked in Mountain View, just that none of it is very Italian in style, much less Neapolitan. Pizza My Heart and Maldonado's are OK for the occasional slice, but those are closer to New York in style. The closest place to Mountain View that I've found with pizza in a recognizably Italian style is Pizzeria Antica in Santana Row. It was very good when it opened, but more mediocre now.

        Most of the others you mentioned I have tried and found wanting regardless of style. Note that D'Angelo has closed and has been replaced by another pizza place; it was closed on Sunday when I went by to try a slice.

        Michael

        1. re: mdg

          Got it. And given that the pizza styles most people know in the US are essentially American inventions, I suppose the modern Italian styles would even strike some folks as strange. (My cookbooks from Italy are also filled with pizza types rarely seen on these shores.) In fact I remember that's what they told me at Venti: Crowds coming in for pizzas after Shoreline concerts etc. didn't know what to make of the official Italian pan-pizza style originally offered, so they added the hand-tossed, US kind as a supplement a few months ago.

          Since you mentioned "any good pizza would be welcome," I wonder what you have tried of the specialties at the local Amici's, Venti, and above all Zpizza on Castro, and what you think of them.

          Below, a comment from the local comparison I cited, mentioning pizza's Neapolitan roots. (Mariani published a broad historical article on Italian-American food evolutions in 1989.)

          --
          Like many “Italian-American” dishes, our pizzas are mostly a US idea. Food historian J F Mariani traces their evolution, starting as “poor people’s food from the slums of Naples” and unknown in most of Italy. Neapolitan immigrants brought them to the US where pizzas grew larger, changed from knife-and-fork to finger food, narrowed stylistically from free-form ingredients to a sauce-cheese-toppings ritual, and exploded in popularity in the 1950s. From the US they grew popular internationally, including throughout Italy.

          1. re: eatzalot

            I found Amici's and Venti mediocre for their styles and not worth return visits. I walked in and out of Zpizza on a recent visit to Mountain View - way too similar looking to Papa John's if I am recalling correctly.

            On a more positive note, I'm definitely looking forward to the new location of A Slice of New York, coming soon to the eastern end of Mountain View. That of course is a New York style as well.

            Michael

      2. You might wish to try a few Zpizza pizzas, then judge (again it's a good time, because of deep discounts). For example a pear-and-Gorgonzola "rustica" or the unusual, non-traditional, very popular "Mexican," or the tasteful vegetarian "Provence" which includes capers. I'll testify after several of Zpizza's and several of Papa John's, I see more differences than similarities. This reflects less contact with the shops in person (though some) than with the pizzas themselves, because I've mostly ordered them for delivery or take-out. Papa John's is far more of a mainstream chain with electric conveyor oven and conventional ingredients. Zpizza, which I first experienced in So-Cal a couple years ago, slides the pies with a pizza peel into a hot gas-fired oven, and offers maybe twice as many ingredient choices (like three kinds of mushrooms). I have NOT been excited by two pizzas sampled so far at Venti (one of each basic style), but that is far from enough exploration to be sure there aren't strengths to be found there. (I'm willing to work to find them, it has often paid off handsomely these past decades of Bay Area dining.)

        I was intrigued by this new wood-fired place, and enjoy Howie's Artisan Pizza in PA and the nearby, less known but creative, classy small pizzas at chef Ayers's Calafia (the famous Google cafeteria spin-off). But to put this topic in some perspective, it needs to be said that other than exceptional customers with extremely specific tastes, the pizzeria population now in MV has proven to satisfy a wide range of people. That's based on the lively local pizza discussions over the last couple years on the neighborhood email list (several hundred central-MV residents) and also on a venerable Bay Area food forum with separate population. Those discussions prompted me to explore most of the pizzerias listed above and I'm now certain, after lots of data, that most people will find worthy moderately-priced pizzas among them. That's why why I was surprised to see the assertion here "MV is badly in need of ... even decent pizza" and the subjunctive verb mood in "Any good pizza here ... would be welcome."

        -----
        Calafia
        855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA

        Howie's Artisan Pizza
        855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301

        1. Napoletana Pizzeria opened Monday in the former Café Mazeh space with kitchen area remodeled, large walk-in visible from front. It's an independent operation unconnected with the current and fashionable SF Neapolitan pizzerias, I was told. Chef (evidently Italian) really knows his ancient pizza history, we chatted on it.

          As with any restaurant that just opened (the sign outside is temporary, the paper menu copy I took didn't have the phone number printed yet), I urge anyone seeking a smooth experienced operation to _wait_ a month or two. As in most new businesses I encountered a couple minor tactical glitches that will resolve in a short time and were of no consequence (yet could prompt dismayed or even indignant "reviews" on some online sites). But I perceive the underlying concepts, kitchen basics, and sensibilities to be very solid.

          Pizzas bake in the wood-fired oven in view of diners for a very toasty crust, light and tender inside. Stacks of Caputo brand Italian flour sacks are up front near the oven. As at Howie's in Palo Alto (the nearest, geographically, that I can compare in any way), components and toppings are almost completely house-made, e.g. the "sausage," uncased (crumbled), used lightly, flavored with nutmeg or maybe mace. Like "Howie" Bulka, this chef also has a taste for shaved prosciutto applied post-bake in some of the pizza offerings. Pizzas come in one size, hand-shaped, about 12 inches (30 cm), cooked hot and fast. Tried a selection from the menu of pizza offerings and you can bet I'll return. There is also an intriguing selection of Italian pasta specialties and espresso drinks.

          For anyone new to this Neapolitan (as we say the word in English) style, I suggest to start with a simple classic option like the "Margherita" (with tomato sauce, cheese, basil leaf) -- it demonstrates the style particularly well, without the distraction of the more complex, albeit so far delicious, topping options.

          -----
          Napoletana Pizzeria
          1910 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

          1 Reply
          1. re: eatzalot

            Thanks for the report - this sounds very promising indeed! I'll be trying it soon and reporting back.

            Michael

          2. I didn't realize until a second visit (for another good and interesting pizza) but this guy (owner-chef of Napoletana Pizzeria) also has the VPN credential (Vera Pizza Napoletana). A "licensed" Neapolitan pizza chef! There are not many in the world, and just a few in California (SF's A16 has the nearest one, and is the only one whose pizzas I've consumed, and with great relish). It's part of the current popularizing of classic Neapolitan pizzas.

            Among other implications, it explains why he offers only Neapolitan topping combinations and may disappoint some people seeking un-Italian stuff like pepperoni.

            I gather that the restaurant itself may also become certified (and listed in the VPN directory) after it has been open a while. The chef said he's still awaiting the right kind of marble to handle the pizza dough, a proper sign outside the business, etc. The place is just recently open. But mdg (assuming you can overlook such gross improvisations as the wrong kind of stone surface for handling Neapolitan pizza dough :-), you better hustle over there if you haven't already. I believe your ideal of "authenticity" mentioned above is confirmed.

            -----
            A16
            2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

            Napoletana Pizzeria
            1910 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

            1. Last Friday night, we had two pizzas and caesar salad -- completely successful, with no need to apologize for first week issues.

              Margherita and Quattro Formaggi pizzas were stunningly good, from the charred crust to the delicately balanced toppings. Salad was normal until the caesar dressing brought the lettuce, croutons, and cheese to a sublime confection.

              With no additional comments on the other area pizza shops, this one is THE ONE FOR ME.

              -----
              Napoletana Pizzeria
              1910 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

              3 Replies
              1. re: anyhow

                Wow, does this sound better and better. I was in Anaheim last week getting my Thai fix but hope to try it this weekend. Wonder if we can get them to make the rest of the menu as Neapolitan as the pizze!

                Michael

                1. re: mdg

                  mdg: "Wonder if we can get them to make the rest of the menu as Neapolitan as the pizze!"

                  I apologize for not mentioning earlier, but that's done too. At least, chef said the pasta dishes are Neapolitan. They look great on the menu -- if only I could dine out constantly and ingest endless carbohydrates at will ... :-(

                  Salads won't be strictly Neapolitan (given that the Caesar came, as everyone knows, from Mexico in the 1920s when the notorious temporary law so bad for US wine and liquor availability was simultaneously good for Mexico's restaurant industry) but anyhow, above, reports positively on it. (Something similar happened at Venti in MV, whose owner had to stretch the franchise rules and add Amurrican hand-tossed pizzas after her customers, including hungry crowds from Shoreline concerts, didn't know what to make of the rectangular Tuscan pan pizzas.)

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                  Cucina di Pizzeria Venti
                  1390 Pear Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94043

                  1. re: eatzalot

                    Correction: When I was there last night for yet more pizzas I browsed pasta menu again, saw some famous Emilia-Romagna specialties. Quizzed chef. He said in fact the pasta menu _includes_ Neapolitan dishes but not exclusively. ("Could they pull your VPN license on account of that?" "No, it only applies to pizzas.")

                    To dump's comment below -- topping size varies with the pizza type and also from pie to pie (hand-made variability is evidently part of the deal). I've now tried most of the pizzas and some of them definuitely have a lot more on top than others. For example the Capricciosa, which looked good on paper and tasted even better, last night came with toppings covering most of it. (NB, I hesitated a little about ordering that one because one ingredient is artichoke hearts. Too often in greeeengo pizzerias, that implies big pickled pieces scattered with no thought to their strong pickling dominating the other flavors. Not so here! These were delicate hearts and leaves, harmonious with the several other components in that pizza.)

              2. Just went last night, and I think Neapolitan pizza may not be my thing.

                While the pizzas were delicious, my issue was price for quantity of toppings, which only covered 2/3 of the diameter. That means that over 1/2 the pizza was just crust. Delicious crust, but at $15 for 12 inches, a bit pricey for me.

                1. Looking at the online menu (prices in the restaurant vary a little bit from the website), I was intrigued by the pizza del carcerato, the signature specialty of Antica Pizzeria in SoCal.
                  http://www.sunset.com/food-wine/pizza...

                  So I went there last night in a group of four. I had a chance to chat with the owner and learned that this is his first restaurant venture. He ran a flight school before and decided to make a career change to follow his passion. He went to Antica’s pizza school and bought Mazeh’s business because the wood-burning oven was already in place. The oven was running over 1,000 degrees and burns almond wood.

                  We started with the Insalata tricolore, $9 - Arugula, Belgian endive, radicchio and shaved parmesan in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Made with mostly wild type arugula and a little bit of slivered radicchio and endive, which was fine with me. Didn’t like the balsamic vinaigrette as much as the lighter dressings served with the tricolore salads at Delfina in SF and Santi in Santa Rosa.
                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                  We ordered our pizze one by one for sharing to enjoy each hot and fresh. First up, pizza Margherita, $13. I could have used a little more salt and oil, but a pretty good job. Tasted good even if the cheese was too rubbery. The crust was a bit doughy and we asked for the next one to be more scorched.
                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                  Pizza del Carcerato, $14 - Tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, parmesan and ricotta (hidden in a part of the crust edge). This is a Margherita with the added richness of ricotta folded inside the rim. The crust was more done and tasted sweeter than the first one. This pizza was cooked a little longer and the flavors melded better for me.
                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                  Upskirt of the pizza del carcerato shows the level of scorching. http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                  My favorite was the Pizza del Cafone, $15 - housemade sausage, rapini, smoked mozzarella, olive oil. The crumbled sausage bits reminded my friends of Cicero’s. Very tasty stuff with lovely balance of flavors, a little spiciness to play off the slight bitterness of the rapini. The crust was crisper around the rim and with no tomato sauce the influence of the smoke showed through more in the flavor. The salt level was just right for me. This pizza was just a little more scorched and approaching my preference. It was a challenge to get to this point after two requests.
                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                  We shared one order of Tiramisu. Very strong espresso flavor, which I liked, but more cream than marscapone.
                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                  Here’s our tab for four people . . . uh oh, looks like we weren’t charged for the tiramisu.
                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                  This is a promising start.

                  Here’s the menu from Antica Pizzeria in Marina del Rey for comparison.
                  http://www.anticapizzeria.net/mdr/ant...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    We tried the Margherita and Pizza del Cafone, in that order, with results and impressions that match Melanie's point by point, even though we made no requests.

                    I'd say that compared to other pizzas touted as Neapolitan that I've eaten in the bay area, that these are much drier and crispier. Flour + Water and Tony's Neapolitan pizzas, the latter in particular, are quite moist by comparison. It's been awhile, but my recollection of A16 and Pizzaiolo is that they're not this dry, either.

                    The minestrone we ordered had a nice melding of its flavors with a bit of butteriness.

                    We'll certainly be back, though I'm sympathetic to dump's complaint. We were disappointed by the size and dryness, the lack of delicacy relative to the other places I mentioned, though the latter two are probably more a matter of personal preference than anything else.

                    -----
                    Pizzaiolo
                    5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                    A16
                    2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                    1. re: maigre

                      My Cafone wasn't dry, but the toppings barely covered half the diameter. And it's not like they just piled all the toppings in the center, because had they spread the sausage out, it would have appeared distinctly sparse.

                      In comparison, I had New Haven style pizza at The Red Grape in Sonoma over the weekend, and although the crust is even thinner, the toppings were markedly more generous. However, the crust wasn't as tasty as Napoletana's, which is kind of the point of Neopolitan style pizza, right ?

                  2. Yes, this is the real deal for Naples-style pizza in Silicon Valley! My one experience in Naples was at Di Matteo. This is different, but really good. The crust has that excellent fire and wheat taste. The main concession to American taste is slicing the pizza into 8s - it seemed weird at first, but I have to admit I did like the convenience.

                    We started by splitting a Caesar salad, then had a Napoletana pizza (with excellent sausage) and a Prosciutto e funghi pizza. Both were excellent with a fine balance of flavor among crust, cheese, sauce, and toppings. It's all done by hand so of course there is some variability involved.

                    I took another look at the pasta menu and did indeed see some Naples selections there, not just the Bolognese and other northern items. Now we just need the wines to both improve and move towards Campania. Southern desserts like cannoli and sfogliatelle would be a nice touch too. This place is small enough that they could go all-out Naples regional and still do great. They don't have too fill a big high-rent space like some other Italian places around that waffle on their southern influences.

                    It is just amazing that after more than a decade living in a pizza wilderness, where mediocrity was the best you could hope for, we now have three fine places in their own styles: Howie's, Napoletana, and Slice of New York. It sure is great not to have to travel to San Francisco or Oakland for good Italian-style pizza any more!

                    Michael

                    1. Stopping by yesterday for a late lunch (before they closed for the afternoon) and a Capricciosa pizza, I heard chef telling server about how busy the previous night had been -- busiest night so far. I mentioned Melanie's comments from that night and he recalled the conversation.

                      Potential fans of this place should try as many different pizza types as possible in order to judge. I found a considerable range of flavors. (And I explained earlier that the topping coverage varies with the topping choice and the individual pizza.) Also, a single snapshot visit may not see the range of fluctuation in cooking that I've noticed in four visits so far (each, except yesterday, for multiple pizzas). Fluctuation may be inherent in this style; but also the chef of this new operation is gaining experience working in real restaurant conditions. I've had a number of pizzas more scorched than Melanie's photos, and once the chef rejected a pizza, with good reason, as burnt and started over. They cook so fast (just a couple of minutes) and the oven is uneven enough (unlike many commercial gas-fired pizza ovens, its surface doesn't rotate for uniformity) that a small distraction can mean a big change in the result. But I think that's part of the fun!

                      1. Below, yesterday's Capricciosa.

                         
                        1. We went for dinner last week with my family.

                          We had a ceasar salad, which was very good. Ceasar sauce was perfect (reminded me of the sauce from Tra Vigne at Napa Valley and Piccos at Marin, probably among the best ceasar salad sauces in Bay Area). We also had fried calamari that was also very good. Crispy, not oily, very good portion.

                          We've tried different pizzas:
                          * the classic Margherita - tomato sauce, basil, homemade
                          mozzarella fior di latte, extra virgin olive oil
                          * one pizza with tomato sause, mozzarella, homemade sausage (I've
                          asked them to add rapini, a green like brocollini that is very popular
                          in Italy and goes great with the sausage)
                          * one pizza with tomato sause, mozzarella, mushrooms and
                          prosciutto

                          All the pizzas were great and truly authentic Neapolitan:
                          Juicy and tasty tomato sauce (tasted like the traditional sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, not acidic at all), perfect crust (thin in the middle and thicker on the outer crust, I saw Caputo 00 flour bags next to the wood fired oven). The Mozzarella fior di latte cheese as good as it gets, olive oil was fragrant. Sausage was not overpowering, very tasty and balanced. The Prosciutto (crudo), was not salty. Mozzarella di bufala is something that would be a great addition as an option but of course this special Pizza Margherita would cost more money.

                          We like pizza and Italian food a lot and we've eaten in the best
                          Pizzerias/Italian Restaurants in Bay Area (Una Pizza Napoletana, A16,
                          Zero Zero, Flour + Water, Tony's, Piccos, Pizzaiolos). I think that the
                          pizzas we've had in Napoletana Pizzeria in Montain View taste as good as the best authentic Neapolitan pizzas we've had in these other restaurants.

                          Finally, the service was good, the wines we tried very good for the price, ambience elegant and cozy. Some wines from the Campania area (like Aglianico) and some better Tuscan wines would be a great additions to the wine list.

                          -----
                          Pizzaiolo
                          5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                          A16
                          2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                          Ceasar's Cafe
                          208 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                          Tra Vigne Restaurant
                          1050 Charter Oak, St. Helena, CA 94574

                          Marzano
                          4214 Park Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94602

                          Zero Zero
                          826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                          Napoletana Pizzeria
                          1910 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: N K

                            Napoletana is still making wonderful pizzas. This time we had a Margherita and a Bianca al Prosciutto and both were excellent.

                            The big news is that they have upgraded their wine and dessert list. They were out of the half bottle of Aglianico - which someone else tried to order too while we were there - but the glasses of Greco di Tufo and Silician Chardonnay were very tasty matches with the pizza. So much better than their original wine list!

                            There's now cannoli for dessert, with some candied fruit in the not-too-sweet ricotta filling. There are some other interesting dessert choices too, including a flute of lemon gelato mixed with limoncello.

                            It wasn't as busy tonight as when we went before, hopefully just because of the Easter weekend. This place is making some of the best pizzas around!

                            Michael

                            1. re: mdg

                              How are the cannoli? Amount of burn on the outside? Clearly filled to order, or pre-filled?

                              1. re: bbulkow

                                They tasted good to me but I'm not a huge expert. The filling isn't too sweet and the shell isn't soggy. I've never noticed burn in cannoli before so I can't tell you about that. It's a small place so I wasn't expecting them to make the shells in-house. Cafe Renzo still has my favorites in the area, but these are better than at A Slice of New York.

                                Michael

                                -----
                                Cafe Renzo
                                473 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                                1. re: mdg

                                  Ah, a common reference in Renzo. I'll stick with those, then.

                          2. Napoletana Pizzeria updates September 2013:

                            This belongs here, although in-depth recent discussion of Napoletana and a peninsula "Neapolitan-style" pizzeria trend happened in parts of another thread, not all sequential; here's one of several postings there: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9145... Note that's a post link, not a thread (topic) link; I sometimes find I must refresh the page AFTER opening it, to get to the specific post.

                            Having errands nearby, I poked into Napoletana recently, 1st time in months; came away 2 hours later, full of food and some new information.

                            Kostas closed the restaurant for a month recently, for a long-threatened vacation. (He worked literally seven days a week almost 3 yrs, 2 meal services daily except Mondays.) During the vacation he visited Naples and tried 20 of the 200-plus VPN pizzerias there, including some of the earliest (with single-digit VPN affiliato numbers; Napoletana Pizzeria is #426). Out of some 2000 total pizzerias in Naples.

                            He was disappointed. He said that while a couple of the most famous Naples places did decent work, compared to a previous visit in the 1990s the scene now is "all about money." "No flavor anymore;" tourists line up for 2 hours at some of these pizzerias. Those tourists are gone the next day, and the owners don't care about top quality, having more trade than they can handle. "These tourists come away believing they've had the best pizza in the world. Disappointing." He went into technicalities regarding crust flavor and why specifically he thinks many of them are not turning out the quality they could.

                            Back at the sole VPN pizzeria in humble Mountain View, Kostas recently added three more pizza styles to his menu (13 total), plus a "traditional Neapolitan" calzone. Containing moderate ricotta and salami, wrapped in his usual dough; then tomato sauce & basil on top. Baked to bubbly toastiness in a minute or two in the wood oven, as usual. "You find this calzone in Napoli, everywhere."

                            I tried it. A lighter style compared to those US calzones (even at more Europeanoid places like Chez Panisse Cafe) that ooze a pound of mixed cheeses when cut. This sense of balance mimics Kostas's pizzas.

                            I harangued Kostas on a need to better explain Naples style to Americans unaware that these pizzas are served unsliced in Italy, and that the American reflex to slice just-baked pizzas creates the "wet center" issue with Neapolitan pies: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9145... Kostas didn't quite see the need -- "Around here, people know now, I've been serving them 3 years." However he was not set against adding menu language, it may happen. Meanwhile you're duly warned.

                            The menu now does include other explanations -- mentioning that they're traditional Neapolitan pizzas, and (new footnote) "we kindly decline any modifications on the pizzas other than the removal of basil or ham." The anchovy option is also on the menu now.

                            I quipped about the Kansas-City chain (in first linked thread) that mentioned adding pineapple toppings for California sites; "I bet you still get requests for pineapple." "Yesterday!" put in Kandra (a longtime server), adding that servers field most such requests; Kostas, the pizzaiolo, doesn't hear about all of them. "I bet he prefers it that way," I suggested. (General agreement.)

                            ETA: To bbulkow's qry re pasta dishes in the linked thread: I did try two of Napoletana's pasta dishes in the course of those dozens of visits, and thought the carbonara notable. It's a style not often made well in the local area, despite a simple concept. Quizzed, Kostas said he is reasonably pleased with Napoletana's pasta offerings, and that the carbonara is easily the most popular.

                            31 Replies
                            1. re: eatzalot

                              "I harangued Kostas on a need to better explain Naples style to Americans unaware that these pizzas are served unsliced in Italy, and that the American reflex to slice just-baked pizzas creates the "wet center" issue with Neapolitan pies: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9145... Kostas didn't quite see the need -- "Around here, people know now, I've been serving them 3 years." However he was not set against adding menu language, it may happen. Meanwhile you're duly warned."

                              I don't get what you mean here? Our pizzas were sliced and came to the table soggy. Tasty toppings and crust, but won't be making return visit unless there's some way to get non-soupy pie.

                              1. re: Lisa S.

                                Went over this in the recent linked thread, but it's worth summarizing here.

                                The "overly wet in the center" comment reveals a cultural issue with people in the US encountering authentic Neapolitan pizzas. The comment basically does not come up from either Italian customers or Americans familiar w/ Naples pizza traditions, as follows. (Practical advice for Americans in separate reply below.)

                                From Mariani, historian of Ital.-American food: "[Pizza was] originally poor people's food from the slums of Naples... [in the US, immigrants] enlarged it and sold it as finger food, in contrast with the pizzas customarily served on plates and eaten with knife and fork in Italy."

                                At Napoletana Pizzeria, many customers are from Italy, and if he knows the preference, proprietor Kostas routinely serves the pizzas unsliced, on plate, and I see the customers eating them with knife and fork.

                                Many US customers, and unfortunately also professional restaurant critics -- who might have spread this crucial background info about authentic Neapolitan ("VPN") pizzas, but locally failed to -- habitually assume that pizzas were always meant to be sliced, even though that's a US, not Italian, idea.

                                So, to avoid even worse backlash, Napoletana slices the pizzas right out of the oven, if customer preference isn't known. This slicing causes bubbling juices on the pizza surface to fall through and gather in the middle of the plate. Creating the "wet center" issue, especially with busier mult-ingredient toppings. It's less noticeable when they're served unsliced, because the toppings have more time to evaporate, equilibrate, etc.

                                So you see, the "wet center" point arises not so much from the Neapolitan pizza style, as the US peculiarity of slicing them right out of the oven. You can always ask for them unsliced, as they are normally consumed on their home turf. After literally dozens of Napoletana's pizzas, I still sometimes get them sliced -- incentive rises, the more people are at the table. But we also know who and what is responsible, if any centers end up wet.

                                Method to minimize wet centers is in my later reply to ssfire, below.

                                These are points more customers might appreciate forewarning about. I've tried as a customer to spread word among friends and local community, even writing to journalists who omit to mention it. I believe Napoletana misses a bet by not pro-actively informing customers, but again, that may come.

                                1. re: eatzalot

                                  To pick a few of historical nits:

                                  In Naples, pizza was sold to-go for centuries before the first sit-down pizzeria opened in 1830 and it evolved into something people ate in restaurants with knife and fork.

                                  That sort of repeated itself in the US, with Lombardi and Totonno selling pizza by weight to go for years before the first sit-down pizza place opened.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    "In Naples, pizza was sold to-go for centuries before the first sit-down pizzeria opened in 1830 and it evolved into something people ate in restaurants with knife and fork."

                                    Please contact J F Mariani with that, Robert (perhaps these details belong in a separate pizza-history thread). While you're about it, you might check into the pizza's ancient antecedents in Greece. The pizza came to Naples itself when the latter was a colony of ancient Greece. No doubt some reference or fossil exists even of sliced pizza fragments from Hellenistic antiquity.

                                    Meanwhile my remarks and Mariani quot'n in this thread
                                    refer of course to established 20th-century custom in Italy. As I mentioned in the other thread, my cookbooks from Italy have photos of pizzas being served -- invariably individual sized, on plates, unsliced, knife and fork nearby.

                                    1. re: eatzalot

                                      The additional facts I posted don't conflict with anything you quoted from Mariani. You seem to be arguing some point I didn't make.

                                      Italians don't serve pizza sliced in restaurants. There are exceptions, such as Spontini in Milan, but they're so rare as to more prove the rule.

                                      Gennaro et al. did not turn restaurant pizza into finger food. The pizza a taglio they first sold was straight out of the older tradition, which in Italy continues alongside restaurant pizzas to this day.

                                      The history of pizza the dish is long, complicated, and has numerous obscure corners. Same goes for pizza the word only more so.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        No argument whatsoever, just humoring you. Take it easy.

                                        Since my pizza history came verbatim from Mariani, like a good scholar I was merely referring you to the source, as the logical audience for any historical quibbles. This is getting off topic.

                                  2. re: eatzalot

                                    This touches on my favorite whipping boy re: asian/spicy food. I think the restaurant should start with authentic X (whatever - spice, utensils, plating), then answer any customer issues or confusion with menu language and/or wait staff language - and offer to cater to local predilections - but, crimini, don't serve a suboptimal dish by default.

                                    I would have preferred, as a single person with a single pizza on my previous visit, to have received an unsliced pizza and a lesson or lecture, instead of a wet center and sticking my fingers uncouthly into the cheese. If you have the ear of the proprietor, you can tell him that. And someone else on this thread, who is not coming back because the experience was a sub-optimal mishmash.

                                    To go further on my rant would be espresso --- whether to ask for "ristretto" on my espresso or not. After the first sip I can tell, but what about a cafe I might only drink at once? My current answer is anyone who needs to be told to pull ristretto shots won't do it if requested, anyone who can does. This isn't 100%, but if I'm not making an investment in the cafe / barrista, I'll just take the default and a learning experience.

                                    [ PS. I considered arguing on RL's side regarding whether PN was "leading a trend" or not. With so many wood fired very thin crust pizzas before 2011, although few using the "Neapolitan" brand name, it seems arguable ... but why bother? I'd rather eat some great pizza. ]

                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      "I would have preferred, as a single person with a single pizza on my previous visit, to have received an unsliced pizza and a lesson or lecture ..."

                                      So would I, in truth. Restaurateurs, though, whether serving VPN pizzas or Chinese ethnic specialties unfamiliar in the US, face realities different from those of (and not always even apparent to) intrepid open-minded customers like us who hold forth on Chowhound.

                                      For better or worse, bb, you and I and mdg etc. ARE NOT the typical mainstream US customers at these restaurants. Do you get that? (As always, anyone who thinks they can do it better is welcome to open their own restaurant and learn the market realities.)

                                      Kostas at Napoletana has faced all manner of US pizza prejudices even beyond this sliced/unsliced conflict (people regularly give him grief for not making substitutions, or offering their favorite US toppings, like pineapple) and I respect him for having to make difficult choices that most of us don't. The flack he'd get from many customers if he served all the pizzas unsliced would dwarf the moderate amount of complaint he gets from the side effects of catering to the US custom of slicing.

                                      I strongly agree this issue needs to be communicated better to newcomers to this pizza type, as I've said. Anyone can mention it to Kostas if they go there. I am working on it, because I go there repeatedly.

                                      1. re: eatzalot

                                        It is so easy to slice a pizza after serving, especially in such a small room.

                                        So hard to take sauce off noodles.

                                        Serve without slicing.

                                        And, see, you started arguing about this whole "starting a trend" thing.

                                      2. re: bbulkow

                                        The narrow point in the other thread -- it was only a point made by a journalist, NOT me -- about Peninsula pizza "trends" had solid, specific supporting history. Wood fired thin pizzas in the past, yes. Verace Pizza Napoletana pizzas in the past, no. After Napoletana, another restaurant (Terrone) opened, with a cook who had VPN training too (he was a pizzaiolo in Italy, but not Naples). Publicly predicting VPN certification, which would make Terrone the second in the Bay Area south of SF. Figo is another recent business (the Pasta? chain owner), with or without VPN aspirations I don't recall. The recent local 10-site deal announced by the Kansas-City "Neapolitan" chain may be pure coincidence, but it followed one actual (Napoletana) and at least one aspirant VPN restaurant opening, and all their attendant publicity. That's what, and only what, Jamie Morrow referred to when she said in the "Daily Post" that Neapolitan style pizzas seemed to be a trend on the Peninsula.

                                        I hope that the narrow nature, and the source, of that comment are now clearer. Any argument by you, RL, or anyone else should go to Jamie Morrow, not me.

                                        1. re: eatzalot

                                          You said all that before, and your repetition of Mr Morrow's comments repeatedly & ad nauseum in this thread is the issue.

                                          Second visit to Napoletana -- this time with GF.

                                          At "prime time" on a Wednesday, tables almost filled up, but didn't quite. Just ordered pizza, and one pizza each was a little too much food, but couldn't stop eating. Had the Napoletana and the 4 Cheese. The 4 Cheese was better than any 4 cheese like pizza before because of the pungency of the roquefort.

                                          We ordered the pizzas unsliced, and this made all the difference in the world. When we got toward the center, the "wet center" was a delight, as it was a little more oily and decadent than the edge bits, the progression from edge to point a more interesting journey.

                                          In my quick glance at 3 tables with pizza, 1 had unsliced, 2 had sliced. Order unsliced! I didn't overhear any italian spoken.

                                          We didn't attempt any of the off-menu anchovy action yet. Still just trying the pizza.

                                          GF said - "very very good" and liked the relaxed low key digs, but "they're SO out of the way!" --- we think of the freeway as "the teleporter" and having to fight our way up rengdorff seems like such a chore. Still, plenty of parking, cozy, unusual experience.

                                          My theory re: slicing now is to send some mail to VPN and get them to change the standards for certification. If VPN is going to be so picky with every other element of the preparation, and since slicing vs not slicing is such a critical element of the experience, VPN certification should specify that pizzas are served unsliced --- just like adding pinapple.

                                          I

                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                            Thanks for the report. FYI, Napoletana's 4-cheese pizza has occasionally been a little rich and heavy (with pie-to-pie variation) in our experiences -- so it has become customary to order it typically for larger groups, where we can share it around.

                                            If you can visit at a relatively quiet time, sit at the (4) counter chairs right in front of the pizza-prep station. Then you can talk to the pizzaiolo or pizzaiola (Kostas's very capable assistant) about pizza types and so on. That was very helpful in learning the restaurant, and details like the formerly unadvertised Anchovy Option.

                                            I understand its being out of the way for you. Downtown Menlo Park, for instance, has the same issue for me (Willow Rd. playing the part of Rengstorff).

                                            (Sorry about any repetition earlier: It was occasioned by RL, then you, responding to things way outside the scope of MS. Morrow's published comments, which seemed to demand their clarification. That, to me, was the only issue.)

                                            1. re: eatzalot

                                              I have left a note for the VPN people, and referenced this thread. Let's see if something changes. I continue today to be haunted by how GOOD the center was, when eaten last with knife and fork.

                                              At the risk of drawing a parallel no one will understand, it's like getting one of those korean stone bowls of rice where at the sides & bottom you get the burnt rice crust. In texture it's the opposite (more oily instead of more crunchy), but it's a special texture shift in the meal when you're eating the end bits. You keep that extra bite of nearly-all-cheese decadent goodness until the very end, just like crunching on the very browned rice.

                                              1. re: bbulkow

                                                And I will keep lobbying Kostas to better explain the issue; I think I know how that can be done.

                                                As explained upthread, I very much doubt that the general public would respond better if these pizzas all arrived (by default) unsliced, without warning -- however much some of us like to eat them that way. But that option is and has always been available by request, if only more folks could learn of it.

                                                1. re: eatzalot

                                                  Perhaps a better solution would be to equip servers with slicers and bring the pizza to the table unsliced. Ask the customer how they want it, maybe explaining the VPN tradition of not slicing. Even if the customer wants it sliced, it still has had a moment to settle and will be less soggy.

                                            2. re: bbulkow

                                              I hate the drive up Rengstorff. Much prefer taking Shoreline.

                                    2. re: eatzalot

                                      How does it work if there are two people sharing a pizza? Do you get the pizza unsliced, then each person uses a knife and fork to eat their way toward the center, from opposite sides?

                                      Or does each person cut off a big slice and transfer it to a personal plate, and if so, isn't that the same thing as pre-slicing the pizza?

                                      Or is the idea that the center of the pizza congeals after a few minutes, becoming non-soggy, so you want to eat the wet center part of the pizza last? In that case, would it be better to slice the pizza into a 3x3 grid, and eat the center piece last? In my experience, soggy pizza doesn't really congeal; it just stays soggy.

                                      Or is it the case that the center of the pizza will always be soggy no matter what, so you are forced to eat it with a knife and fork? That doesn't solve the problem of soggy pizza.

                                      1. re: ssfire

                                        Italians don't share pizzas. They're intended to be individual servings.

                                        1. re: ssfire

                                          To, as it were, have your pizza and eat it too (i.e. share, yet minimize the leakage effect), request them unsliced, WAIT literally a few minutes (that part can be difficult, if you're hungry) for the pizza's various matter phases to settle down, then cut slices as you need them, not all at once.

                                          And remember, people go to pizzerias recognized by the Verace Pizza Napoletana ass'n, like this one, to get authentic Naples pizza. The question of eating individually vs sharing vs avoiding wet centers is inherent to authentic Naples pizzas, not a quirk of Napoletana Pizzeria specifically -- rather, testimony to that restaurant's authenticity. ("Not a bug, a feature.")

                                          Recall (if you cook things like these) that recipes and experienced cooks always let, for instance, roast beef or baked lasagne right from the oven "rest" 15-30 minutes before cutting. It's a roughly comparable situation. Resting lets the juices that were more mobile during cooking re-absorb. It takes less time with pizzas, being much thinner. If you slice roast meats right out of the oven, they drain out more juices.

                                          1. re: eatzalot

                                            Sometimes resting isn't enough.

                                            We've gotten 2 pizzas at A16 Rockridge. I guess they aren't VPN (yet?), but A16 in the city is. Still the pies come unsliced with some scissors for cutting.

                                            They rested a few minutes while we were nibbling on another dish, but both were soggy centered when sliced. One (the Montanara, their fried then baked pie) was soggy enough so that the inner 1/3 of the slice broke off while trying to transfer it to my plate.

                                            I was really surprised as I thought the frying of the dough prior to baking would have made it even more sog-resistant.

                                             
                                             
                                             
                                             
                                             
                                            1. re: drewskiSF

                                              Good data -- thanks, drewski.

                                              I can only speak from (many) Napoletana experiences. Having them sliced just out of the oven, bubbling, will certainly produce the wettest possible centers, as it opens a drain into the plate. A little patience (and/or Italian-style eating) has paid off there, especially with very popular toppings like "Margherita" or "Napoletana." Some VPN fans don't even care -- they go for the unusual crust and pizza flavors, they look past any stray juices.

                                              The main point I think is to _be aware_ of Naples vs US pizza differences, including serving. This information is empowering. Almost all of the Napoletana complaints, either that the restaurant people've mentioned, or that I saw online, imply unawareness of those differences. (Many complaints concerned not juices but toppings -- why won't you substitute; where's the pepperoni -- which the restaurant at least has started addressing via menu disclosure.)

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Jamie Morrow was of course writing a few weeks ago about RECENT trends, following on her articles about the other nearby restaurants opening in 2012.

                                            You guys can't seem to get enough of that subject, but I have explained carefully, in the last few minutes, the source and limited scope of the "trend" comment. It really is off topic from this thread. I will post Jamie's email if you want to direct the quibbles to the source.

                                            1. re: eatzalot

                                              I'll move that post to the other thread.

                                          2. re: eatzalot

                                            Do people complain about this issue with other VPN / Neapolitan-style pizza places? It appears there's a lot of harping on it w.r.t. Napoletana (here, yelp), but their pizza seems to me similar in composition to those at Pizzaiolo / Boot & Shoe, UPN, Zero Zero, Tony's. A little unscientific yelp searching shows that with far fewer reviews posted than any of those places, Napoletana has many more reviews griping about wetness. What's going on? Why is this place so particularly afflicted?

                                            FWIW, I don't mind if the pizza is sliced right out of the oven, although if given a choice I'd let it rest (e.g., when making it at home).

                                            1. re: eethan

                                              I've heard similar complaints about A16 and Una Pizza Napoletana. I think at this point most people who go to UPN know what they're going to get.

                                              Pizzaolo, Boot & Shoe, and Zero Zero do not make Neapolitan-style pies. Tony's makes a lot of other styles as well.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                One thing Kostas at Napoletana told me a few days ago is that the wetness comments in the restaurant itself have gone down greatly since he first opened, and he seemed to take it to mean that customers were catching on.

                                                He did recently add other needed language to the menu (about substitutions, another point of confusion and complaint), and he has put the formerly off-menu anchovy option on. He seems to be a little complacent about the slicing issue but as you can see in this thread, it still causes problems, and I feel he may come around to addressing it more deliberately.

                                              2. re: eethan

                                                eethan, are those other places also VPN? (I know of only four such in the Bay Area.)

                                                Bottom line, Napoletana makes _exactingly_ Neapolitan pies; its proprietor is obsessive; and there is far less issue with wetness if you let the pizza rest, and cut it slowly, so the problem doesn't have to happen there. Just don't get them sliced right out of the oven.

                                                I've read dozens of online complaints, too, about this issue at Napoletana, ever since the place first opened, as well as in professional reviews.

                                                I don't recall a single one (of either) revealing any acquaintance with either VPN pizzas, or the Italian tradition of serving pizzas unsliced. That's why I characterized it as a culture clash, and that's why I tried (unsuccessfully) to get both Metro Silicon Valley and the Embarcadero newspapers to amend their published reviews and help explain this issue. Their reviewers, like many customers, were blind to the difference in pizza-serving customs.

                                                1. re: eethan

                                                  Yes, some in this thread seem to be blaming "user error" for the soggy crust. It's more likely poor craftsmanship/service. Howie's originally served chewy crust pizza. Now it's glop and I don't eat there anymore. It's a question of dough composition, cooking time and temperature, toppings composition, timing of slicing and serving time all being carefully tended to and balanced so the pizza arrives hot and non-soggy. Blaming soggy crust on American incompetence at pizza eating is pretty weak sauce indeed.

                                                  1. re: Lisa S.

                                                    No, Lisa: It is neither "incompetence," nor poor "craftsmanship," it is simply culture clash. The fact that you can enjoy the pies there without wet centers, as I've done dozens of times, by learning from the Italian practice, proves that. Above I explained what to do, for anyone interested. You will likely encounter the same situation at any _VPN_ pizzeria if you have the pie sliced immediately.

                                                    That Napoletana has become the go-to place for Italian expatriates up and down the peninsula (who presumably know their Italian pizzas) further demonstrates that Kostas knows what he's doing.

                                                    Please read my comments more carefully, I think you're being unjust above. But I sometimes notice in restaurant discussions generally, of many kinds, that some customers just do not want to hear about factors in the experience that they themselves can influence, even where the result could mean more enjoyment for them.

                                                  2. re: eethan

                                                    You might like this thread, started by a Bay Area chowhound after reading one too many rants about wet Neapolitan pizza,
                                                    chowhound.chow.com/topics/744796

                                                2. Question: are the pizzas at Napoletana Pizzeria the same size pizzas that you get at a VPN place in Italy? In other words, is there an "authentic" size of VPN pizza? If VPN pizzas are intended to be individual servings, then is Kostas making them larger than normal to satisfy American expectations for the size of a pizza?

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: ssfire

                                                    They're certainly similar to what I've tried at A16, and around the size of pizzas in photos from Italy in cookbooks I have. Roughly 12" or 30cm across. They are always served on plates, and again I see the Italian-expat customers eating them individually, unsliced.

                                                    I don't believe the size was influenced by the US market, anyway that would be inconsistent with what I know of Kostas's style in other details.

                                                    1. re: ssfire

                                                      VPN requirements state that the pizzas must not be larger than 11".
                                                      http://www.pizzanapoletana.org/public...

                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        Odd that the English and Italian rules are different.

                                                      2. re: ssfire

                                                        The VPN specs are no more than 35 cm (14") in diameter, 0.36-0.44 cm thick in the middle, with a raised crust between 1 and 2 cm (0.4 - 0.8"), though typically they're more like 10-12".

                                                        http://www.pizzanapoletana.org/public...

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          Yes the two different publications have different size limits. 35cm is 13.8 inches.

                                                          This usually comes up because of approximations in the conversion from metric to esoteric foreign units like inches. (And in past centuries, inches themselves were not even standardized, or were confused with other roughly similar units in particular regions, which has led to one or two interesting historical gaffes. For instance I've read that Napoleon was of above-average height, but a myth to the contrary developed traceable to a different French inch at the time, not correctly translated into English measure.)

                                                          1. re: eatzalot

                                                            The Italian PDF I linked to says 35 cm. The English PDF says 11", which is 28 cm.

                                                            The English version was obviously translated by a non-native speaker, so I suppose they might honestly have thought 35 cm was 11". Or the translator just personally thought 14" was absurd and cut it down.

                                                      3. The place is just a few miles from my office so I decided to wait out last night's traffic meltdown there.

                                                        I got the Napoletana (with house-made sausage), unsliced. It was excellent, as good in this style as I've had, as good as the best I've had at A16. I liked it better than Una Pizza Napoletana, Tony's, or Coppola's place in SF when they were VPN. I was sitting at the bar, only two of the many other pizzas that went out were unsliced. Sizes were somewhat variable, some left an inch or more around them on the big plates, many were slightly larger than the plate.

                                                        The best thing about the caprese was the arugula, which doesn't belong on a caprese anyway. Tomatoes were not flavorful (ridiculous this time of year) and the mozzarella was a bit bland and too firm.

                                                        1. The pasta carbonara is excellent, as well.

                                                          1. I tried the Napoletana pizza: It's a margherita with ground sausage:
                                                            http://www.flickr.com/photos/ssfire/1...

                                                            $16. I requested it unsliced. The flavor of both the crust and the toppings is great, and the outer crust has a great level of chew. I worked my way from the edges toward the inside.

                                                            However, the middle part of the pizza is so soggy that it's a challenge to eat even with a knife and fork. The ground sausage is a particular problem: it spills out all over the place when trying to eat even a small piece. I wound up cutting it into narrow strips, rolling them up, and eating them like I would a crepe. In fact I would describe it more like an open-faced crepe than a pizza. Which is OK (it still tastes great), but the problem is that the crust doesn't provide much structure to the overall experience, which is the whole point of eating a pizza.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: ssfire

                                                              Thanks for the report, ssfire.

                                                              "the problem is that the crust doesn't provide much structure to the overall experience, which is the whole point of eating a pizza."

                                                              I guess that part varies with the individual -- as well as from pizza to pizza at Napoletana.

                                                              In at least half a dozen pizzas there of that particular type (Napoletana, with crumbled house-made, mace-flavored, uncased sausage meat) I don't remember particular mechanical issues as you described. And no two pizzas there, even of the same topping, have been exactly identical, as to crust thickness, topping quantities, etc. (Based on trying several pizzas each of the nine original types --Kostas recently added a few new permutations I haven't tried).

                                                              But also (this came up earlier in email from another esteemed CHer who has not posted on this topic, but has been going to Napoletana Pizzeria), some of us are taken up with the flavors and textures, to the point of not really noticing or judging these pizzas as comparisons with more familiar US pizza styles.

                                                              1. re: ssfire

                                                                Traditional Neapolitan-style pizza is not stiff or crisp, so eating it is somewhat different. I didn't find the center of mine soggy, but it was definitely soft.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  My experience as well. I had to change my definition of "the whole point of eating a pizza". Literally, that pizza changed my definition.

                                                                  I tried to describe how I approach the center in this style in a previous post, let me try again.

                                                                  The center is not an afterthought, the thing that flops around, but the hidden secret treasure where the crust has become negligible and the cheese and sauce is all powerful. The pizza becomes an interplay of high crust, vs high cheese, as you circle around, gnawing, oroboros style, toward the center.

                                                                  I found that spectrum, the interplay, was extraordinary and delightful - and, honestly, a different experience - thus my insistence that we try to experience this style on its own.

                                                                  One final thing: take out is laughable. Just doesn't work.

                                                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                                                    "take out is laughable. Just doesn't work."

                                                                    Not sure in which of two possible senses you meant that, so I'll address both.

                                                                    I always urge people to consume these pizzas right from the oven by preference, for the experience. 3-4 times I have taken them out, short distances (10 min. drive); they firm up a bit and lose the extremities of exterior crispness, but have been recognizable experiences -- not quite as good IMHO, but neither would I laugh at them, nor has anyone refused them.

                                                                    2nd issue comes up if customers arrive at very busiest times -- all tables full -- and ask to order take-out, but are refused, become disappointed (and needless to say, indignant online). But there's excellent reason for it: the one pizza maker on duty needs 100% attention to make table orders full-time, when the place is full. (Merely a particular instance of Jim Quinn's classic rule, don't go to restaurants at their busiest times of week.)

                                                                    I liked that circling metaphor ...

                                                                    1. re: eatzalot

                                                                      By "laughable" I mean - the live experience in the first 3-4 minutes is sublime, and the degradation after those minutes seems an offense to artistry.

                                                              2. I really wanted to try this place and ended up only 20 minutes away so thought I'd give it a try. Don't arrive at 2:20 :( they close at 2 for lunch! Somehow I didn't think to check when they were open - oh well they gave me a menu and it looks like a attractive space but don't think I'll get to try it for a while.

                                                                1. One other data point: I had the spaghetti carbonara and it was very good. The sauce is a little thinner than other carbonara sauce I've had, but still very good.