I'm beginning to believe pizzanapoletana when he states that there really isn't one. Not a single one. Not one? Hard to believe but I think he may be right. According to the mainstream media and several members here (whose opinion I respect immensely) UPN is as good as it gets. Unfortunately, UPN does not qualify in my mind. I would be willing to agree that UPN makes a "Neapolitan Style" but not the real McCoy. Since I've never had the real thing, I can't be 100% sure about my position but if I'm wrong on that point then I will end my pizza journey right now and proclaim NY style pies the best available.
Pete, I can definitely say that UPN is not authentic pizza napoletana. It took me some time and a trip to naples to understand why this is the case. On top of that the UPN pizza has dropped in quality lately. He has always cooked his pizza a little too long, but at one time it still had decent texture and excellent flavor. His pies were all about flavor, with his extremely sour dough, extra basil, and very heavy handed use of olive oil. Now his crust flavor is gone, his texture has hardened up, and all we are left with is a dry flavorless dough. Very sad. I wish you could have had it when it was good. Authentic Neapolitan-not, but good pizza for the US yes!
The way I see it is that the lack of real Neapolitan ovens in this country is holding everyone back. Let's face it, how many of the ovens over here can do large runs of pizzas in 1.5 minutes or less. So far there are none that I know if in NYC, and only a few in the country. Just recently we have had a few places bring in the proper oven, and I think this is going to change things for the better. I have not tried these places, but I would imagine Spacca Napoli in Chicago, and Bettola in Alabama probably have an authentic product. Via Tribunale in Seattle is supposedly about to trade up to a real Neapolitan built oven. Il Pizzaiolo in Pitsburgh is about to have one installed in February as well, although I love their pizza as is.
Something I often wonder about is if New Yorkers are even going to prefer "authentic" Neapolitan pizza in the style of the really famous places in Naples. Pete, I hear you comment on how you are looking for a crispy outer layer with a soft interior. I have spent time on the phone talking to three people that have visited Da Michele in Naples and from what I can tell (also having visited Trianon myself) they do not have a crispy outer layer. The crust is really really soft, but not crispy. Is this something we as Americans are going to prefer? I am not convinced that it is. With these quickly baked high hydration doughs you do get an absolutely mind blowing internal texture, but I am not sure that is enough to win over the masses. Because of our preference for a slightly crispy pizza I think a 1-1.5 minute Caputo based pie is probably going to be most Americans ultimate version of a Neapolitan pizza. The problem is that all the ovens I have seen in NY can't even bake a pie properly at these speeds. On top of that many of these places are using Caputo flour, which in my opinion has poor texture with bakes over 2 minutes. Most of the NY "Neapolitan" pizzerias are doing 3 minute pies. Patsy's is probably the fastest and could do a great pie with their oven, but they are using the cheapest ingredients they can and lack consistency. Luckily we now have companies like Forno Napoletano selling ovens over here at reasonable prices. I think that very soon we are going to see a big increase in the quality of Neapolitan pizza in NYC when some new places open up, or some of the established pizzerias demolish the old ovens and install real Neapolitan ovens.
To sum up, I still don't think that anybody in NYC is even doing the slower, crisper version of a Neapolitan pie any justice. UPN is out of the race. Luzzo's has a great texture, but the crust and cheese flavors are just not there at all. So far only one place here in the states that I have tried has been able to do a great "crispy Neapolitan" and it is Il Pizzaiolo in Pittsburgh.