What's not to love about Neapolitan pizza?
For one, people who take it too seriously. Pizzaiolos bearing official stamps of authenticity from various Napoli agencies of pizza purism. Way to kill our vibe.
At Ribalta in NYC, Naples-born proprietor Rosario Procino and pizzaiolo Pasquale Cozzolino stick to traditional methods, but aren't afraid to toss conventional wisdom to the wind. (These are the guys who caused a bit of a stir with their French-fry-and-hot-dog-topped pies; Procino insists the combo is popular in the Motherland.)
Owner Rosario Procino | Napoli signage | Pizzaiolo Pasquale Cozzolino
In addition to the ubiquitous Neapolitan pizza, they're serving pizza in pala--soft, rectangular pies that resemble the pizza by the yard popular in the Naples area. Others have tried the concept, but these are the most delicious we've tasted.
The pies are so delicate, they're baked twice--first without toppings that would otherwise fall through the dough. A high water content and natural yeast make the crust easier to digest.
"You don't get that after-pizza thirst; usually after you eat pizza, you need to drink all night because of the yeast," Procino says.
A Napoli fan | Two pizzas in pala
Don't get us wrong; it's good to respect your pizza roots, but there's no need to be puritanical about it. The boys at Ribalta do right by their elders while having fun with the whole thing.
And if Ribalta's clientele is any indication, the pizza is the real deal: Fans of the Napoli soccer team gather at Ribalta weekly to watch games on the restaurant's gargantuan screen.
"The Napoli fans are the craziest ones in New York," Procino says. After our pizza tutorial (see the video) we stayed for the game. The crowd drank beer (Morettis and Peronis), ate a lot of pizza and hurled obscenities at the screen (in Italian, so they sounded like pretty love songs).