November 18, 2013 |

What do customers understand about true Neapolitan pizza?

By Mandy Wolf Detwiler

Don Antonio by Starita

Don Antonio by Starita is one of the hottest new pizzerias in NYC.

My husband, Bill, is in New York City on business. There are a plethora of dining options at his ready, including some of the best restaurants in the world.

Although he would have loved to trek out to family favorite Totonno’s Pizzeria Napoletana, weather and traffic had him sticking closer to the hotel. I sent him instead to Don Antonio by Starita, the current “It” spot of pizzerias in Manhattan. Owned by Roberto Caporuscio (of Kesté Pizza & Vino fame) and his mentor, Antonio Starita, proprietor of Pizzeria Starita a Materdei in Naples, the restaurant has made a splash on the New York dining scene for its classic Neapolitan pizza and mainstream introduction of the montanara, which has a lightly fried dough.

The Fresca salad at Don Antonio by Starita

The Fresca salad at Don Antonio by Starita

Initially intimidated by the pizzeria’s menu, Bill asked for a salad and a Margherita pizza. It was a simple, classic order and he couldn’t go wrong. He was delighted with his Insalate Fresca, which featured baby arugula, grape tomatoes, Parmigiano-Reggiano,EVOO and a Balsamic glaze. He sipped a bottle of Italian beer while waiting for his pizza.

The pizza he received was a thing of beauty indeed –– light brown crust, a splash of acidic tomato, handmade buffalo mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, basil and a kiss of EVOO. He eagerly dove in.

Don Antonio by Starita

The classic Margherita at Don Antonio by Starita

I asked it afterward how his first ever real Margherita was. His response? “It was really good! Worth the walk. Not Totonno’s, but better than anything in Louisville. You can’t get crust like this at home.”

I murmured my agreement, and then he dropped a bomb. “The very center was a touch soggy right out of the oven, but after a minute, it was perfect.”

When I told him that is how a true Margherita sometimes is –– a little wet in the center –– he said it was perfect then. Some of the best pizzerias in the world suffer from a lack of customer understanding as to what truly makes a Neapolitan pizza. It’s been widely touted –– and mostly incorrectly –– by some large chains, and that in turn has shaped public opinion.

For those of you selling classic, traditional Neapolitan pizza, do you find you sometimes have to explain your pizza style to new guests? Do you have your servers ask if customers are new to your establishment? Let us know some tips you might have to handling customers’ expectations in the comments. It’s wonderful to get it right, but if your customers don’t get it period, you’ll have a hard time getting them back.

Mandy Wolf Detwiler is managing editor at Pizza Today.