Stuzzi / by Daniel Warshaw

UPDATE (4/5/2011):
Lest I lose my Richmond food credibility, I think I need to add something to the top of this post. The quality of this joint fell off very quickly. I mean seriously fast. It's too long a story and involves too much conjecture, but I basically don't go here anymore. The pizzaiolo that was the star of the kitchen no longer works there, unfortunately, but the pizza fell off before he left.

I stand by my taste buds' experience when I ate that first pizza at Stuzzi, but I'm sure some of my enthusiasm was affected by the novelty of finding proper Napoletano-style pizza in Richmond. Emotions easily override reason, especially where sensory input is involved.

The main point is, I had a great pizza on that particular night. I've since had better pizza from my own oven using a pizza kit from Pizza Tonight and some fresh mozzarella. If you like Stuzzi, fine. But you won't catch me in there these days.

****************************************

The bar has been raised for pizza in Richmond, Virginia.

Valerie and I dined at Stuzzi, the new pizza restaurant that took over the much-missed 1 North Belmont location. I was worried for a while that this place would be big on gimmick and low on quality because they lean heavily on their Napoletano pizzaiolo and hand-built brick oven in their marketing. They seem to have spent more money on decoration and branding than a typical pizzeria as well.

All fears melted like their freshly-made mozzarella in a 1000 degree oven when I took my first bite.

This pizza is the real deal. Other then the fresh mozzarella on our pizza Margherita, there was a perfect quantity of crushed San Marzano tomato sauce, a few leaves of fresh basil, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. AND THE CRUST. Goodness gracious, the crust. I've opined before about the criticality of a pizza's crust. That I could eat this crust by itself and be satisfied is a mark of superior quality in a pizza. This wasn't just one of the best pizzas I've eaten in Richmond. This is one of best pizzas this Jersey boy has ever eaten (with the top spot still firmly held by L'Antica Pizzeria di Mechele in Naples, of course).

They have a reservation book, and it may be a good idea to take advantage of it if you can't make it to the restaurant by 6 PM on a Friday or Weekend evening. It was pretty busy tonight on Fathers' Day. It also took quite a bit of time for us to receive our pie, but I'll chalk that up to Stuzzi having only been open for a couple of weeks (hopefully!).

Side notes: We also started off with the mozzarella fritta - basically a sophisticated mozzarella stick, but made with their fresh cheese (round slices instead of sticks) and hand breaded. After our pizza we ordered some of their mini cannoli. These were a fantastic finish as the filling was some of the best I've had. Not too sweet, and a nice stiff texture.

It's $9 for the pizza we split, but if you're hungry you could easily scarf one yourself. It's still worth it. This is pizza as craft. But they have plenty of other toppings that look fantastic (and I intend to try) and will probably make splitting a pizza more filling for both parties.

Or you can just order one for yourself anyway. I have a feeling this stuff will make some of the best left-overs :-)