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Is it just me or has D.C. suddenly turned into a New World Naples? Discounting drunk slices and our lone New Haven connection, it seems that every pizzeria that opens in the metro area channels the spirit, if not always the technical requirements, of Neapolitan pies.
Il Canale has already made a name for itself in Georgetown. Former 2Amys and RedRocks pie-man Edan MacQuaid is expected to resurface next month in Falls Church, and the Pupatella Neapolitan Pizza Cart team has just moved indoors in Arlington.
Owner Spiro Gioldasis, the long-time general manager at Mrs. K’s Toll House, opened the stylish Pacci’s in April in a space once occupied by a Polish bakery. Gioldasis has spent considerable time in Greece, his father’s native land, where he learned about crispy Roman-style pizza, but when it came time to launch his own house of pies, Gioldasis decided to look toward Naples, not Rome.
Then he went out and found the right man for the job: Rosario Granieri, formerly of Oro Pomodoro in Rockville, who comes from a family stuffed with pie-makers. Gioldasis says three of Granieri’s brothers run pizzerias back in Naples.
Granieri has all the proper tools and ingredients to produce his Neapolitan pies: a wood-burning oven, Caputo flour, San Marzano tomatoes, and fresh buffalo mozzarella. He even follows the proper technique of applying the freshly crushed tomato sauce without first cooking it down. It makes for a pie with a serious ambitions.
The interesting thing is how different Granieri’s rounds are from the rest of the Neapolitan pizzamakers in the area. For starters, the crust is softer and more pliable than those produced by his peers; there’s more chew and less crunch on Pacci’s pies, with very little charring, particularly on the bottom. There’s also an abundance of sauce (which I also found on the pizzas at Il Canale). Between the excess sauce and the soft crust, Granieri’s pizza has a mushy mouthfeel, although I have to say that the flavors of his La Verace are terrific, at once tart and salty and creamy.
Some will tell you that this is the style of true Neapolitan pizza: softer, less crispy than the pizzas we tend to pull from the ovens in the states. I have my doubts about that, particularly after talking with an Italian chef who tells me that the crusts in Naples tend to be crispy before yielding to a softer interior. He did say, however, that a true Neapolitan pie tends to avoid excessive charring, like Granieri’s.
I’m not sure where this leaves us on the question: Who’s producing real Neapolitan pizza in the area? All I know is that we have an increasing number of pizzerias claiming to do such pies, and no two seem alike. I’m beginning to think this whole pursuit of an authentic taste of Naples is a fool’s errand.