Viva Napoli is a Neapolitan pizza hot spot in the serene Mount Pleasant area that's been open for just over a year. Aiming to offer respite for Northerners who've previously braved a defeated trip to Libretto or Queen Margherita , authentic Napoli-style pizza is the primary passion here.
Tables are smattered together in the small galley style dining room, which regularly trails a line-up out the door, and the service is authentic; the staff seems to be all Italian, with adorable accents and cheerful suggestions in somewhat broken English.
The beer choices are limited--only bottled Peroni ($5) for those seeking the true authentic matching--but we felt like tipping pints, which left us with Mill Street Organic ($5 a pint) as the sole keg option. Italian wines dominate the wine list, and are available by the glass or bottle, and at varying price points.
First time restaurateur and owner Guistino Iorio courts the dining room and keeps the staff on their toes. Passionate about top-notch ingredients and a stickler for tradition, Guistino shows off his wood burning oven with great pride. It is a behemoth, and cooks pizzas in just over a minute at a thousand degrees, in true Napoli fashion--a place he embraces as his former hometown and still frequents in order to stay in touch with his roots.
Sanctioned by the VPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana) which mandates ingredients sourced solely from Campania, proper cooking guidelines, and time honoured techniques, I was eager to see if the proof was in the pizza.
We ended up quite literally in the hot seat. The front windows are not a good spot for the pigment-challenged--I secured a decent sunburn while perusing the menu--so we opted to take our pies to the park for an impromptu picnic.
Their Margherita pizza ($14) have collected accolades left and right, and I felt compelled to order one of these prized pies--I was happy I did. Some dishes just echo their history and geography, and this is definitely one of them. Ever so slightly melted fior di latte rests atop a spread of sweet San Marzano D.O.P tomato sauce, with a small touch of freshly wilted basil and a drizzle of olive oil to finish it off. The dough, for me, is the most important part of a good pie, and is up to snuff--faintly blackened on the crust, and moderately soggy in the exact middle. That is the true mark of a Napoli pizza, made with "00" flour.
The Balsamica ($20) was equally superb. I'm an absolute arugula enthusiast--I tend to read that ingredient and then impulsively order. Lovingly hand-tossed dough gets turned into a pizza salad with whole cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, cooked ham, and grana cheese flakes, topped off with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. It's a perfect summer pizza, albeit a messy one.
The Nutella Pizza ($9) was decadent and oozing with its namesake hazelnut goodness. Wrapped up in little hand-sized bundles and topped with a whiff of icing sugar, it was a rich finish to the meal.
I adored this pizza place, and truthfully, have been trying to get in the door since they opened. With seating for about 50 people, you'll need your patience. You may find yourself waiting in line, or worse, sitting in the front by the secondary ovens--the floor-to-ceiling windows. Viva Napoli usually takes reservations, but not always on (busy) weekends. Patio-dwellers should seek their sun elsewhere, as it's indoor seating only.