Pizaro's Puts Artistry Into Its Napoletana-Style Pizzas

In this week's cafe review of Memorial-area Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana, we take a look at the artistry pizzaiolo (and owner) Bill Hutchison puts into every pie he makes.

Part of that aesthetic emphasis is a product of the type of pizzas Hutchison makes at his restaurant: Pizza Napoletana, a style of pizza and its associated traditions from Naples, Italy. The international Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana and its U.S. partner Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) Americas are the main organizations behind promoting and preserving the heritage of this Naples-bred pizza.

But there's more to making a Napoletana-style pizza than just embracing its heritage.

"In fact, the Italian government has created a special 'DOC' certification that it gives to restaurants that adhere to the strict official standards," writes Peter Reinhart in his book American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza. "If you want DOC designation, you need to use Italian '00' dough and buy all of the approved tomatoes and cheeses."

The result is what many pizza connoisseurs agree is the best and most authentic style of Italian pizza -- but not one that many American consumers, especially Houstonians, are familiar with.

We don't have any official VPN-certified pizzerias in Houston -- at least according to the membership records for VPN Americas. Just as it's difficult to find a true Chicago-style deep-dish pizza in Houston, the Napoletana-style pizza hasn't quite caught on yet here either.

Except at Pizaro's, where there's usually a line out the door on weekends for Hutchison's faithfully recreated Napoletana pies. Despite the pizza's popularity at Pizaro's, I've heard from a handful of customers who don't "get" the Napoletana style. And that's understandable, as it's a departure from the Papa John's and Pizza Hut model that we're mostly accustomed to here.

Adam Kuban, food writer for Serious Eats and chief pizza maven on its sister website, Slice (which is devoted entirely to pizza), found this same problem in New York City -- so don't feel like we're alone down here. To assist people new to the genre, he wrote a handy guide on Slice called "What to Expect at a Neopolitan Pizzeria."

It's full of handy tips that you can easily apply to make the most out of your own dining experience at Pizaro's, such as: don't do delivery. Kuban explains:

I've never, ever, ever seen a Neapolitan pizzeria do by-the-slice pizza. It's a whole-pie-only, sit-down affair. Either that or a take-out or delivery thing. But, really, you don't ever want to eat a boxed Neapolitan pizza. The crust just does not hold up well. It ends up steaming up in the confined space, and once it gets cold, it loses what crispness it had and has the potential to become very chewy. Eat in for the best results.

I know it goes against every grain of our being not to order pizza for delivery, but Kuban is right. Although leftover pizza from Pizaro's warms up all right, it's not good cold and a fresh pie doesn't stand up to traveling long distances. Check out this week's cafe review, then read the rest of Kuban's tips before you head west to Memorial.

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