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Pizza Bocca Lupo, San Pedro Market, San José: wolf it down by mouth

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The numerous threads on Chowhound about the Bay Area's best pizza are all worth reading. There is good pizza to be had here - something less true of most regions in the nation.

Pizza Bocca Lupo in downtown San Jose provides sensible, affordable, traditional pizza napoletana. You will find sound pizza elsewhere and characteristically exquisite toppings in particular - it is hard to match the mixed mushrooms at Piccino or the extraordinary greens from the garden at Pauline's. But I haven't tasted a traditional, Neapolitan pizza in the Bay Area to equal Bocca Lupo's.

We had two pies: the on-menu pizza diavola - crushed tomatoes, generous garlic, roasted peppers, chillies, salame, mozzarella; a pure white pizza, with just cheese and oil. As I ordered and said 'just mozzarella', the pizzaiolo peeped around the corner and said 'but no grana? No oil?' I told him that oil and cheeses were fine, just no tomato or herbs.

The crust is thin in the center with a generous, thick edge outside the topping area. This is standard for Neapolitan pizza and similar in form (but not flavor) to New York pizza. Very yeasty, tender dough, still moist inside but slightly charred where it touches the firebricks in the oven. The oven is ostensibly hot enough to meet the official standard for pizza napoletana: 485°C, and our pizze took under 2 min to cook. I've heard that it matters whether the oven is wood fired, gas fired, coal fired, oil fired, or easy-bake. I am not sure the fuel source is important so long as the high temperature is maintained. My favorite two pizzerias growing up were coal- and oil houses, but I've had perfect pizza from a very hot gas oven, too. And I've endured execrable slabs of goo from fancy wood ovens.

At Bocca Lupo, the mozzarella is rich and caramelizes nicely on top. On the more-topping pizza, I found the cheese only slightly too generous, but the salame and the red peppers in particular came through.

Many eaters from the area will be familiar with the regional chain Amici's, which makes edible pizzas in a similar style at a premium price. Bocca Lupo's pies are markedly better, and they are also substantially cheaper. Bocca Lupo offers a counter, inside tables, and garden tables. Bocca Lupo has beer and wine (including glasses of Aglianico), and you are directly across the market from a full bar with a wider selection. Water from the tap is free and comes in paper cups.

You can build your own pizza. Mostly traditional ingredients, but the margherita is the only DOC-style traditional on-menu pizza. Yes, you can get an egg. No, no tuna listed. (Note: you can bring an egg or a bit of good tuna to almost any pizzeria. It's generally not in compliance with health codes, but you can always ask.)

The white pizza was $9 and the devilish pizza was $13.

My ratings
Crust: 4 / 5 crumbs
Cheese: 2.5 / 3 cows
Sauce: 3 / 3 cauldrons
Toppings: 4 / 5 anchovy heads
Cheese-to-crust ratio: -2 / -5 overzealous milkmaids
Charring: 4 / 5 blowtorches
Service: 3.5 / 5 kisses on both cheeks
Seating: 3 / 5 romantic piazze (outside)
Free Wi-Fi: 4 / 5 bars

Pizza Bocca Lupo, San Pedro Market, 87 N San Pedro at St John, San Jose.
pizzaboccalupo.com

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  1. Glad you liked it. I reviewed it way back in January:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/830235