This is why I love Pizza Nea

I spent eight out of the past 12 months in Italy. During that time, I learned a little something about Neapolitan pizza. When I say ‘a little something’, I really mean a little something. OK, I learned like two things:

One, pizza should be thin.

Two, it shouldn’t have 15 toppings.

True Neapolitan pizza only has three or four toppings (five if you wanna risk a raid by government pizza regulators). It took a while for me to adapt to this concept. I’m an American after all. I want an insane, ear-smoking, flavor detonation on every bite of food that I put in my mouth. In this country, since our ingredients are often not fresh or of high quality, the only way for us to get that zap of genital-tingling zest is to deluge each dish with so many ingredients that your tongue short-circuits and sends lively, if confused, endorphins up your spine, rewarding you with a tiny brainstem orgasm. But I digress…

While in Italy, I lived in two locales:

• A 200 yard long village on the shores of Lake Trasimeno – population 87
• An abandoned vacation village in western Sardinia, population five pensioners and me – abandoned because it was winter, not abandoned because of the usual reasons (i.e. unexplained mists and zombies)

These two obscure barren places had one thing in common: stellar pizza. Don’t ask me why there were exceptional pizzerias in back-water places where you couldn’t even buy bread, that’s just how they roll in Italy.

So on those occasions when I couldn’t summon up the courage to boil pasta for the ninth time in a week, I’d hustle over for a quick lesson on how pizza should be served, which as luck would have it, is exactly how the good folks at Pizza Nea do it.

Actually, there are a few little differences. Chiefly, the pizza I was getting in Italy had a much more doughy crust, barely more ridged than a wet rag. At PeeNee the crust is stiff like cardboard, yet still miraculously chewy. Whether or not this violates the strict Neapolitan pizza regulations I don’t know, but ironically the firm crust lends itself to the all-important one-handed pizza consumption, so you never actually have to break contact with your yummy glass of Montepulciano or Chilean wine. In this arrangement you can more efficiently conform to the Italian Food and Wine Consumption Protocol, as decreed by Pope Pius II at the Geneva Convention Grape and Papyrus Expo of 1492:

Bite pizza, chew pizza, sip wine, chew, sip, bite, sip, chew, chew, chew, sip, curse, bite, bite, chew, sip, chew, sip, guuuulp, puke, bite, chew, chew, sip, sip, fornicate, smoke, gulp, bite, chew, chew, sip [repeat].©Pope Pius II (A.K.A. The Notorious P-I-U-S) 1492

Being a man of debatably imprudent repetition, when I go to PeeNee I usually order the Gambero (shrimp, roasted red and yellow pepper, pine nuts and pesto), which is totally awesome. Though the last time I was there, my date – as dates are wont to do – decided that my pizza was so good that we had to trade so she could raid the best parts of my Gambero while I polished off the remainder of her Salsicce (spicy Italian sausage, roasted red pepper, cracked red pepper, fresh mozzarella, crushed San Marzano tomatoes and basil). I acquiesced, though I slashed her tires later. That’s how we roll in America.

Despite the genius of Pizza Nea’s city-defining pizza, it hasn’t been all peaches and cracked pepper. The Uptown PeeNee location recently closed down due to mystifyingly poor custom. However, I’ve been personally assured that the original Nordeast location is having no such trouble and I’ll be able to get my Gambero for many years to come.

Needless to say, I believe that this is one of the jewels in our city’s pizza crown, so notable that even distantly observant, occasional visitors had the wherewithal to rate us Number Five in pizza quality at the CNN/Travel + Leisure America’s Favorite Cities poll.

For the record, we’ve also got Punch Pizza, Pizza Luce and, for the Americanized greasy pizza ideal, Fat Lorenzo’s. If you know of any others I’ve failed to credit, please leave a comment.

And don’t say “Green Mill”, because ever since they “tweaked” their hand tossed Perscara crust (i.e. started getting pre-made dough in 50 gallon drums, mixed by cons in a medium security prison outside Winnipeg), I refuse to give them anymore business.

Pizza Nea
306 East Hennepin Ave
(612) 331-9298

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Eating | 9.11.2007 15:35 | 2 Comments

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