7 of America's Most Authentic Neapolitan-Style Pizzerias
These pizzerias may be stateside, but they would still make Naples proud.
Photo By: Dylan + Jeni for Una Pizza Napoletana
Photo By: Ribalta
Photo By: Lance Roberts
Photo By: Dylan + Jeni
Photo By: Terun
Photo By: Spacca Napoli
Photo By: Antico ©All Rights Reserved CatMax Photography
Photo By: Razza Pizza Artigianale
The Top 7
Primitive flatbreads enriched with toppings may date back to ancient times, but 18th-century Naples is the birthplace of pizza as we know it. The city's signature dish is a point of local pride, and the characteristics of a proper pizza — an elastic dough made from wheat flour, water, salt and yeast; baking in a wood-burning oven at around 900 degrees F; a round, raised-rimmed final product with a garnished center — are all prerequisites. There are even organizations like the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) that have successfully lobbied the European Union for an official definition of pizza Napoletana, while also certifying pizzerias worldwide that adhere to their standards. But not all pizzerias that embrace the spirit of Neapolitan pizza making are VPN-approved, and there are plenty of pizzerias in the U.S. and elsewhere, certified and otherwise, that make pizzas Naples would be proud of. Here are seven top stateside spots to get your fix.
New York City: Ribalta
Naples native Rosario Procino playfully refers to his ristorante-pizzeria near Union Square as "New York's Neapolitan Embassy." It's no wonder Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has been known to order takeout when he's in town. Procino opened Ribalta with fellow Neapolitan Pasquale Cozzolino in 2013. In addition to pizza made from naturally leavened dough, they offer small plates, pastas and salads inspired by the city of their birth. The VPN-certified pizzeria serves classics like margherita and marinara, while The Ribalta, a white pizza topped with mozzarella, sausage and broccoli rabe, is straight out of Naples, where such toppings abound. Even The Americana, a margherita topped with hot dogs and french fries, is commonplace in Naples these days, in spite of the name. In addition to round, personal pizzas, Ribalta also serves "pizza in pala," an extra-large pizza for two, a decided departure from the strict pizza Napoletana dogma. A second Ribalta location opened in Atlanta in 2014.
Phoenix: Pizzeria Bianco
Born in the back of a neighborhood grocery store in 1988, Pizzeria Bianco has grown from a humble venture into a global point of reference for quality pizza making. Helmed by James Beard Award winner Chris Bianco, Pizzeria Bianco now has three locations — two in Phoenix and one in Tucson — each equally dedicated to celebrating natural flavors and delivering farm-fresh ingredients to the table. Neapolitan classics margherita and marinara are joined by original creations like The Rosa (red onion, Parmigiano Reggiano, rosemary, and local pistachios) and The Wise Guy (wood-roasted onion, house-smoked mozzarella and fennel sausage).
More About: Pizzeria Bianco
San Francisco: Una Pizza Napoletana
After a five-year run in New York's East Village, Una Pizza Napoletana transferred to San Francisco in 2010. Pizzaiolo Anthony Mangieri, a hardcore pizza purist, serves just five pizzas made from naturally fermented dough most days that he's open, which is only Wednesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. until the dough runs out. On Saturdays he adds a sixth to the rotation: the Apollonia, topped with fresh eggs, buffalo mozzarella, salami, Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, fresh garlic, sea salt and black pepper. It's by far his richest pie, and the only one featuring meat. The other pizzas are simple permutations of tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, herbs and sea salt, with or without cheese. The wine list is similarly spartan and highlights the smoky, mineral whites of Naples and its volcanic environs.
More About: Una Pizza Napoletana
Palo Alto, Calif.: Terún
Downtown Palo Alto's Terun, which opened in 2012, is a celebration of Southern Italian flavors, including but not limited to pizza. The name, chosen by the pizzeria's Southern Italian owners, is in Italy a pejorative term equivalent to "redneck,"which prejudiced northerners reserve for their neighbors to the south. Terun's menu includes small plates, salads, pasta, fish, and pizzas topped with classic and contemporary flavor combinations. Traditional pizzas like the Napoletana — San Marzano tomatoes, cow's milk mozzarella, anchovy and oregano — evoke the city of Naples, while more creative combinations like pear and Gorgonzola, and cremini mushrooms with 24-month aged prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula, Parmigiano Reggiano and truffle oil, speak to an more cosmopolitan palate.
Chicago: Spacca Napoli
After dedicated study and apprenticeship in the pizzerias of Naples, VPN-certified Jonathan Goldsmith opened Spacca Napoli in Chicago in 2006. The name refers to the pin-straight street that slices through Naples' historic center, a vestige of the ancient Greek and Roman city planning that still asserts its influence on the city today. True to its Neapolitan muse, Spacca Napoli stays close to the flavors of the city, calling on imported San Marzano and Piennolo tomoatoes, as well as fior di latte (cow's milk mozzarella). The domed oven, a design inspired by Roman antiquity, was built by Italian artisans. Goldsmith maintains close ties to top Italian pizzaioli, including Attilio Bachetti of Naples' excellent Da Attilio and legendary Franco Pepe of Caiazzo's Pepe in Grani, a testament to the quality of his pies.
Atlanta: Antico Pizza Napoletana
Conceived as a takeaway-only place, Giovanni Di Palma's Neapolitan pizzeria in Atlanta quickly evolved into a casual eat-in establishment, which turns out hundreds of pizzas a night from its cluster of wood-burning ovens. Antico serves the Neapolitan classics like margherita and marinara, plus some house specialties such as the San Gennaro, which is named for Naples' patron saint and is topped with sausage, sweet peppers, buffalo mozzarella and onions. There are a handful of calzones on offer as well, including the Vesuvio, filled with soppressata, ham and peperonata. Flaky sfogliatelle, a Naples classic, are among the featured desserts.
More About: Antico Pizza Napoletana
Jersey City: Razza Pizza Artigianale
Dan Richer, a New Jersey native, missed his college graduation to travel to Italy, where he studied cooking and baking. Upon his return to the Garden State, he began experimenting with Italy-inspired food and pizza, first at his restaurant Arturo's, and then at Razza Pizzeria Artigianale, which opened in 2012. Richer's intense interest in natural fermentation informs his pizza dough, which incorporates sourdough starter and locally milled flour, lending appealing aromatics to his thick-rimmed Neapolitan style bases. His toppings, guided by the seasons, are culled from small organic farms. Pizzas range from classic — like the rossa, with crushed tomatoes, heirloom garlic and basil — to deeply local; the Project Hazelnut pie features fresh mozzarella, hazelnuts grown at the Rutgers University farm, ricotta and local honey.