I recently had the fortune to visit Il Pizzaiolo. I have to say that I was totally blown away on all accounts. So far the places I have tried in the USA that claim to be making authentic neapoitan pizza are :
Antica Pizzeria (Los Angeles)
Sezz Medi (ny)
Una Pizza Napoletana (ny)
A16 (san fran)
The NY pizza show, and an Accardi foods gathering featuring Roberto Caprucio making pies "on location"
There is no contest. Il Pizzaiolo wins for the best pizza I have had among this crowd. On top of that, The restaraunt itself has a beautiful main dining room, an absolutely gorgeous out door seating area, and a really cozy wine bar. Speaking of wine, this restaraunt has the best selection of Italian wines I have ever seen. I didn't count, but I was shocked at the number of offerings just in the Campagnia region (around Naples). Over all the vibe of this restaraunt is just very inviting, and so is it's owner Ron.
It is no surprise to me why this place is so successful while other similar places in the area are falling off the map. Ron's attention to detail in every aspect of the restaraunt is mind boggling. There is fresh basil growing in the window sills, like many pizzeria could, but here it is the correct Neapolitan basil strain that they use in Naples. I have been to many Italian restaraunts that use ground meat for the Bolognese. Not Ron, he hand chops his meat so that it is an accurate representation of the dish as it would be found in Italy. The pasta he uses, if not fresh, is made outside of naples by (from what I have read elsewhere) the best producer in Italy. This guy is so into food that for lunches he started a place down the street that is serving up NY style hot dogs and California style never frozen hamburgers ala In and out Burger (my personal favorite burger). While he is obviously a business man, I really got the impression that this was more than likely because of his love for food, and not because of any huge profit margin. Even the sodas on the menu here are researched and well thought out. I had never tried an aranciata (the san pelligreno orange soda) that tasted like this. Turns out, Ron discovered that they are not all the same product, and this type in the larger plastic bottle is the best tasting version. It is very apparent that this type of attention goes on through every dish and item on the menu. Ron is not just a master Pizzaiolo, but also a very astute researcher of the best item or ingredients for everything he sells. Now that is a recipe for success!
Ok, on to the pizza. Right off the bat I was worried when I got to the restaraunt. I asked if Ron was around and was told that he was working in the office. I was shocked to find that in a place with this type of reputation someone other than the owner was trusted to make the pizza. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Apparently Ron is doing an excellent job of training because my pizza was made with the same amount precision that I saw in Naples. I have heard reports on this forum about how Neapolitan pizza can be soggy. Well, no chance of that here. This pizza had a crispy outer layer as thin as an egg shell that encased a soft fluffy interior. It was perfectly moist, without the slightest bit of sogginess. The combination of Buffalo mozzarella and the amazing olive oil used on this pizza gave it an addictive quality that is so hard to find. Everything was in perfect balance. There was not too much oil, the sauce was at the perfect consistency. So many times I get a pie at other pizzerias that are close, but there is always some issue. Not enough salt in the dough or on the cheese. Too much sauce, too much oil, too much time in the oven. Not at Il Pizzaiolo. This pizza was perfect.
Another thing on this menu that I tried was the calzone fritto. In typical Il Pizzaiolo style, this calzone was made with the best possible ingredients. Of course not just any old ricotta would do here. Ron actually uses Buffalo ricotta. If you have never had the chance to taste this cheese (I hadn't) you are really missing out. The calzone here at Il Pizzaiolo was actually better than the two I tried in Italy! I sampled one at Antica costa, and another at De figliole, both places are in Naples. While they were both more than excellent, I don't remember them having the depth of flavor that this calzone had. The outer crust was just like I remember from italy, but ron's calzone made with Ricotta di Buffala, Mozzarella di Buffala, salame, parmigiano-reggiano, fresh ground pepper and marinara sauce was simply to die for.
We started our meal with the Antipasto Napoli, which is an all vegetarian dish consisting of Eggplant "funghetto", zucchini "scapece", mushrooms, carots "spiratosa", Rapini, Green beans, artichokes, and roasted red and yellow peppers. I could have come to this restaraunt, eaten this dish, and gone home completely satisfied having just that for a meal. I was shocked at how each vegetable was marinated or seasoned in a different way. So often you just get a dish of vegetables that have a similar seasoning throughout. Travelling around this dish you would get a salty bite, a bite laced with flavorful olive oil, another with a spike of vinegar, etc. Ron even realized that it is best to cook different vegetables at varying amounts. You would get the crisp fresh flavor of a lightly cooked (but marinated) carrot, then a bight of a well roasted pepper that gave the dish a ying and yang of not only seasonings, but also of freshness.
The Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese dish was regrettably the only pasta I was able to try. Even though I am a pizza freak eating this dish made me think that on my next visit I would be happy eating only pasta. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. This pasta was better than anything I have ever had in Boston's north end, even at restaraunts charging twice this price. The description on the menu was : Fresh tagliatelle pasta with the classic meat ragu of balogna with parmigiano-reggiano. It could have just said, the best meat sauce you have ever tried. It was beyond description.
There was a blood orange sorbet talked about, but we never got around to trying it. As with everything at Il Pizzaiolo, I am sure that it was fit for a king. It was probably made with some crazy strain of super hybrid orange that ron discovered who's seeds were accidentally dropped on earth from a spacecraft that came here to help the Egyptians build the pyramids.
Think I liked this place???