There’s no love like the love for pizza, and it’s evident that Chef Joe Monteiro is head over heels for pizza. Not just any pizza, but Neopolitan pizza (or as the Italians call it, pizza napoletana. If the name Joe Monteiro sounds familiar — it is. Mr. Monteiro is the executive chef at the Atlantic Restaurant in Edgartown, and this season will balance that job with running Pizza di Napoli. Like every good chef, Mr. Monteiro will be backed by a stellar team: John Tau and Nick Berntson will mix, toss, and cook up pizzas side by side this summer. Nothing makes better friends than having to work in a small, hot kitchen for a couple of months.
So what exactly is pizza napoletana? The main difference is in the how: what ingredients are used and the way is it cooked. Wheat flour, brewer’s yeast, salt, and water are the four basic elements in authentic napoletana, but Pizza di Napoli puts a very special twist on their dough recipe. Instead of using brewer’s yeast, beer is used to hydrate the dough (regular yeast is also used). Not only does this give the dough just the right moisture, but it adds flavor and extra carbonation, creating a lighter, yet more elastic dough. Their signature sauce is an aromatic blend of the best tomatoes in the business, San Marzanos, crushed by hand with raw garlic and a proprietary blend of spices.
The dough is expertly stretched by hand, with care not to puncture it. If you have a couple of minutes, just swinging by the pizza shop and watching them at work is almost as satisfying as eating a slice. The dough is stretched over a wooden pizza peel covered in cornmeal to avoid sticking and sauce is ladled over it. These guys have spent the last month testing and retesting recipes and techniques — that’s why the pizza now is pure art. “Every element of the process is taken into consideration because we want to make the best pizza on Island, with the best ingredients possible,” Mr. Monteiro said. Imported cured meats like mortadella, salami, and prosciutto are sourced, and there’s no skimping on ingredients.
When the 700-degree oven is opened, pies arrive perfectly cooked on the bottom with a gorgeous scorched pattern, just as they are cooked in Italy. As soon as they are out, pies are brushed with the best Italian olive oil the chefs could find, and placed in a box. It’s like watching a ballet choreography, only with pizza.
As with every interview, I’m bound to get really hungry, so I opt for a slice of their Pollo pizza pie ($22): juicy roast chicken, soft goat cheese, and sweet imported pears sit atop the crust. If you love a combination of sweet and savory, this is the one for you. And if you’ve never had an egg on your pizza, try the Brunch ($24), where pancetta, eggs, and ricotta cheese combine to make the perfect pizza to pair with a mimosa. For the vegans, there’s a gorgeous specialty pizza layered with mushrooms, roasted pepper, fresh basil, and arugula ($22). And if you’re indecisive, just make your own starting at $17, with $2 for each additional ingredient. At 18 inches, these prices are surely worth it. Heck, order a slice for $5–7 and get a quarter of an entire pie. One slice is a full meal, but if you still feel like a bottomless pit, try one of the freshly made salads (wild greens, caesar, or spinach, $6–7).
Follow Pizza di Napoli on Facebook for updates http://bit.ly/PizzaDiNapoli or call 774-549-9585 to order. If you’re in downtown Edgartown you’re in luck — Pizza di Napoli will deliver your hot pizza pie on bicycle! They are currently open 12 noon until 11 pm daily in Nevin Square, Winter Street, Edgartown.