I finally had a chance to try out Fuoco Pizzeria Napolitana in Fullerton, which is in the northern-most part of Orange County, California. I have been wanting to eat at Fuoco since it opened last fall, but since I live in Irvine, it's not exactly convenient to drive up to Fullerton for a pizza. I had a meeting this morning in Los Angeles so I had to drive by Fullerton on my way home. It was lunchtime, so the stars came together and I stopped for an authentic Neapolitan pizza at Fuoco. Glad I did.
The decor at Fuoco is modern, clean, and very appealing. The kitchen is open, and prominently features a gorgeous, tomato-red Stefano Ferrara wood burning oven, kitted out in gleaming red tiles. Very beautiful oven. Since I was by myself, I sat at the bar near the oven, and was able to strike up a conversation with Tullio, one of the owners. He is a very friendly and open person who is clearly dedicated to his customers. Tullio explained to me that his family is from Naples, and their aim is to provide Orange County with a truly authentic Naples pizza experience. They want to serve the most authentic Naples style pizza in Orange County. They are currently applying for VPN status, so that tells you something about their dedication. They use Caputo flour, Italian tomatoes, etc. We talked about the oven quite a bit. They run it at about 900 degrees, and aim for bake times between 60 and 90 seconds. Their dough uses yeast from the previous day's left-over pizza skins. They try to minimize the amount of yeast they use, and have been cutting down on the amount of yeast gradually as they learn more about their dough. It made me hopeful for the pizza.
I opted for a pizza Margherita. French chefs are judged by their omlettes, and Neapolitan pizzaiolos are judged on their Margherita pizza. So that's what I ordered. I don't at all consider myself an expert on Neapolitan pizza, but having read this forum off and on for over six years (and having salivated over the photos from TXCraig and Omid, among others) you can't help but get to know much of what's important about Neapolitan pizza. I used to not like soggy centers; now I am coming to understand the allure. I can pretty well make out a good Neapolitan leoparding pattern too. So I felt as though I was well prepared to evaluate this pizza. The first thing I noticed was how astonishingly fast it arrived. I ordered, and about a minute later (OK, maybe two minutes) it arrived, steaming and bubbling. The divine yeasty aroma of fresh hot pizza filled my nose. The crust appeared to have nearly perfect leoparding. The pizza was very generous in size, quite a bit larger that many "personal pizzas" that you would get elsewhere, and served on a very cool white plate that Tullio told me is typical of a Naples pizza place. A generous pool of mozzarella mixed with sauce and oil bubbled in the center. I couldn't wait to dig in.
I sliced into the crust, and grabbed my first bite right from the previously dreaded "soggy center". It was delicious. Sharp tang of Italian tomatoes, tempered by the milky deliciousness of good mozzarella and a hit of fresh basil. The crust was delicious. Maybe it was ever so slightly heavier than my ideal, but the wheaty aroma and salty tang of its taste were most delightful. I brought about half of it home and had it for dinner and it was equally good crisped up in the toaster oven.
I can recommend Fuoco Pizzeria Napolitana very highly to anyone who loves Neapolitan style pizza. There are many more pizzas I would like to try, as well as some really good-looking salads and other items. I hope to return with my family some time and let them taste what a true Naples pizza might taste, until the day when we might be fortunate enough to vist Napoli in person and dine in Da Michele and some of the other classic Neapolitan pizzerias.