Pizza: Opinions abound on this simple culinary delightBottom Highlights, Restaurant Review Thursday, August 4th, 2011
RESTAURANT REVIEWS: I love when food becomes a controversy and a debate. People all over become attached to what they think is the best and where the best is made. There is probably only one culinary dish around our different regions, even throughout the world, that brings such heated arguments. From its origin, to its style and cooking method, the versions can just be endless and vastly different.
Pizza is a simple culinary treat that people personalize and are adamantly loyal to where they get it, what city does it the best and what is the best way to eat it. It actually is amazing when you think about it. No matter where it comes from and whose making it, it all starts with only three key ingredients: Dough, tomato sauce and cheese.
Even the flavor changes dramatically by how it is cooked. Some say that only a clay brick oven is the way to go. While others say commercial convention ovens cook it the best. Whichever way you prefer, you will find a loyal fan club.
Considering my upbringing in the pizza capital on the East Coast, I consider myself to be a pretty good judge. I’m sure I will receive some backlash on this, but I will make the bold statement that San Diego is not known for pizza. However, there are two places that we are fortunate to have in town that do it right and in true fashion, they both do it differently.
Pizzeria Bruno Napoletano, located on Park Boulevard at the edge of Hillcrest, offers us a very authentic Italian version. Recipes and techniques are straight from the region of Naples, Italy, which is the worldwide city considered to have the best. Even the domed wood burning brick oven was crafted in Naples and brought over.
Every pizza on the menu is labeled in Italian and names reflect the ingredients. With so many good ones on the menu it was hard to pick just a few to write about, but alas I chose my favorites. The Salsicce ($15) is what jumped off the menu for me. Fennel sausage and broccoli rabe top the cheese and offer that bitter and sweet flavor I love so much. The Salami ($15) comes together with sharp reggiano cheese, soppressata and gaeta olives. The spice from the soppressata blend with the salty reggiano and you finish with the richness of the olives.
For those looking for the simpler versions, try the Bufalini ($17). There is no tomato sauce on this pizza but thick slices of vine ripe tomatoes smothered with olive oil, fresh buffalo mozzarella and big basil leaves. If you have a favorite, as many people do, there is a wide list of “extra’s” to add or create your own. Thankfully there is no pineapple available.
On the other side of the spectrum we have Basic in the East Village. Hailing from my home town of New Haven, Conn., this one is an exact replica. In an old converted warehouse with a large opening garage door, here the pizza is dished out more causally. The menu is a “create your own”. You start with a choice of your pie base, red or white. From there your sizes range from small ($9-$10) to large ($14-$16).
Cooked in a traditional pizza oven, the crust is thin and crispy. The toppings are all a la carte and there is a long list. Watch what you are adding, the pizza can get expensive rather quickly. But whatever version you want, they will create it. This is the place to go and get your East Coast fix: garlic and clam pizza. The red sauce is a secret recipe that is both sweet and acidic. There has been a rumor around for years that the recipe for the secret sauce was stolen by a disgruntled employee from another very famous New Haven pizza haunt, Sally’s. As I said before, pizza is big business and people get very serious about it. Whatever the case may be, it works for them.
Each pizza pie is served on large sheet tray’s with paper plates making this the stand around the bar and eat type place. Basic is definitely more lively as you get into the evening with club music blaring and young twenty and thirty something’s floating all around. You do have a choice however; sit on the non-bar side if you want to have that sit-down pizza experience.
From the Italian styles, to Chicago’s deep dish, and East Coast’s thin crust, every type has a personality and tells a story. The pizza wars will continue I believe, with expressive debates happening all over the world. Whatever the case, I get excited when people are passionate about food; it makes my job a lot more fun.
Pizzeria Bruno Napoletano
4207 Park Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92103
410 10th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
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