Though I often waffle about what my current favorite style of pizza is — at one misguided point in my life, I swore that deep dish was my soul mate — I think my eternal favorite pie is made Naples style, in a wood-fired oven.
Naples pizzas are much smaller than the gargantuan New York-style pies I devoured in college. They should have a charred, bubblegum-like crust, a soupy center (that almost always requires a knife and fork), and minimal adornment (though I do appreciate a generous snip of basil).
When it is done well, the pleasure is so intense that all other pies taste irrelevant. In fact, it is at times like these when I am sure in the fact that pizza is my very favorite food. It is very reassuring to be reminded that your favorite food is still your favorite food.
So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered Pizzeria Bruno in North Park, San Diego, where they claim to make an authentic Naples-style pizza. Everything about this place is great. They have a really reasonable corkage fee ($8/bottle). In fact, everything is well-priced.
Though I wanted to focus on pizza, I couldn’t help but order two tempting starters — the mixed salume and the antipasto salad. Both were outrageously delicious. The salume plate had a tissue-thin cured pork tenderloin that was wonderful with the aged balsamic and salty housed-made olives. The proscuitto was unusually rich, with thick white marblings of fat and the mouth feel of softened butter.
You know how they say it’s all in the details? I normally hate the dried-out “crackers” that restaurants try to pass off as toasted baguette rounds that they serve with charcuterie plates. At Bruno, I loved how lightly toasted the bread was, so it stayed chewy, warm, and with a bit of char.
It was so hard not to fill up on our delicious appetizers before our pizzas showed up! This salad was everything a salad should be: salty, crunchy, tangy and with plenty of cheese. Usually I really hate the antipasto ‘salads’ pizzerias serve; it’s like they opened a can of olives, cut up some string cheese, and dumped cheap deli meat on a plate. I think we can all agree that it is the worst. This salad was unusually fresh and crunchy and full of flavor. If the meal had stopped here, I would have been pleased as punch.
Though I typically prefer my sausage crumbled onto my pizza, I loved the thick coins of fennel-flecked pork sausage on this pie. It was joined by mushrooms and sweet onions (my three favorite pizza ingredients). Of course, we ate it all.
I was weirdly energized after our meal. Considering the embarrassing amount of food I ate, I should have been comatose. I was so pumped, in fact, that I convinced my family to order a cannoli for dessert. Triumph!