It's been almost exactly one year since we started our comparative pizza quest between Pizzaiolo, A16 and Picco. And as was the outcome in that search, the third time is the charm with the different pizza places we've tried up here. Via Tribunali--much hyped--was a bit of a disappointment because of its crust (too thick, a bit cardboardy) and dull sauce. Veraci is pretty good, but definitely relies on the coolness of its portable oven to elevate the status of its pizza excellence. Tutta Bella, wearing its VPN certification proudly, stands on its own, a clear cut above its peers in producing pizza bliss.
Start with the most important criteria... the two 800-degree wood-burning ovens. A waft of true-fire smokiness hit me right before opening the door to the restaurant... my stomach was already grumbling.
As with all of our comparative pizza tastings, we use the standard margherita--here, called the Regina Margherita: a simple sauce of San Marzano tomatoes (brightly acidic from the volcanic soils of the terroir in which they're grown), fresh mozzarella, basil and a touch of olive oil.
We take our first bite... it's everything you hope for. The dough is blistered and lightly crisped on the outside while still maintaining that classic elasticity for a complex, satisfying texture... thin without being flimsy, and a nice smoky undertone from the oven. The sauce is perfectly simple and unadorned, showcasing the brilliance of unadulterated San Marzano tomatoes. This pizza is incredibly similar to A16. Perhaps its only weakness is the mozzarella which, while delicious, doesn't have quite the same level of unctuous richness of house-pulled buffalo mozzarella.
Tutta Bella's Wallingford location is massive... at least four times the size of the postage-stamp dimensions of Picco. Yet the quality remains very high. The salads are only ok, and the traditionally pulled espresso, while a nice touch, was a bit on the bitter side. They also have a nice selection of gelato--next time we'll try to convince them to serve the vanilla with a drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkle of crunchy sea salt crystals!
Next month, Tutta Bella is opening another location three blocks away from our apartment! Now, the only question I'm left with is: What's the carbon footprint of my tasty wood-burning brick oven neapolitan pizza?
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