Monday, September 6, 2010

Yes, It’s Another Blog About Pizza

So if you are tired of reading about pizza, feel free to stop reading now. But since we never get tired of eating pizza, these blogs will be a regular occurrence.

Knowing that we would be in Vallejo, CA, I went looking for restaurant recommendations and what pops up as Number Two on but Napoli Pizzeria & Italian Food. And the reviews were raves and mentioned that Napoli Pizzeria was a consistent regional winner of Best Pizza and Best Italian Restaurant awards. And, reviewers promised us New York-style pizza with a thin crisp crust. How could we resist?

“Napoli Pizzeria was founded in Vallejo, California by Salvatore Melagnano in 1956. In the traditional New York Style setting, the pizza maker tossed pizzas in the air and made them right in front of the large bay windows so that civilian and military foot traffic would stop, watch and…eat! Antonio and Giuseppe Guerrera purchased Napoli Pizzeria in 1968…The Guerrera’s continued the tradition of making outstanding pizzas and pasta available to Vallejoans and people from throughout the Unites States who were stationed at Mare Island Naval Shipyard…It has been said that a tourist who really wants to eat well will ask where the locals eat. Well, Vallejo Times Herald readers voted Napoli Pizzeria best pizza in Solano County for 2004, 2005, and 2006“ (from the restaurant’s web site).

You know that quote from the movie Casablanca about “all the gin joints in all the towns in the world.” Well, Napoli Pizzeria looks like all the pizza joints in all the towns in the world. The outside is non-descript--and that is being chari-table.And the interior is a mix of paneling, plastic plants, vinyl booths, and Formica tables. The kitchen is open to the front dining area (there is another dining room off to the side) and hanging above the counter are four pizza pans illustrating the pizza sizes. I do always find this helpful. The menu may say that a small is a twelve inch pie but I need a visual representation.

We found it interesting that at noon on a weekday, one table bore a “Reserved” sign when we arrived and soon thereafter another was placed on an additional table. It appears that people call in to place an order for pizza to eat in before their lunch breaks and the staff reserve a table for them.

The menu includes a number of pasta dishes and sandwiches, but the draw is pizza. You can “make your own” from a long list of ingredients or you can order one of their hand-tossed combos like: The Original with mushrooms, salami, pepperoni, sausage, and olives; The Super with salami, pepperoni, sausage, beef, mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, and olives; Tony’s Special with pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, and onions; The Vegetarian with mushrooms, bell pepper, onions, and olives; and The Mega Meat with ground beef, salami, pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon, and linguica.

We chose two smalls--the Margherita with olive oil, mozzarella, basil, tomato, garlic, and parmigiano (which we had held) and the basic Italian sausage and cheese. And we asked that the sausage pizza come light on the cheese.

Their pies are all made to order and the wait did seem endless. No wonder the locals know to call ahead and order. The pies finally arrived and we discovered yet one more variation on the classic Margherita. Usually, if the pizza has sliced tomatoes it doesn’t come with red sauce. This version had both. And we should have asked for light cheese on both. There was a lot of cheese--let me repeat--a lot of cheese on this pizza. The pizzas had been baked in a gas-fired oven which made the bottom of the crust nice and crisp (which I like), but the crust was somewhat on the thick side.

For me, the sausage (below) worked better than the Margherita. First, the crust was thinner and the edges were air puffed and had a great chew. Now how do two pizzas made by the same person at the same time for the same table come out so dissimilar? Second, as we requested, there was far less cheese. The sauce was savory and slightly spicy and the sausage had only a modest amount of fennel. This reminded me of the sausage pizza at Rizzo’s in Glenside, PA. Another walk down memory lane.

When we sat down, I warned Chuck that we needed to realize that we probably won’t ever find another pizza as good as that at Settebello in Salt Lake City so that expectations should be tempered with reality. Napoli Pizzeria was certainly no Settebello, but the sausage pizza was respectable and earns a 3.5 Addie rating. The Margherita, on the other hand, is awarded only 2.5 Addies.

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