Several items on Napolita’s menu carry the designation D.O.P. or Denominazione di Origine Protetta. It’s a certification that ensures ingredients were grown by Italian farmers using traditional methods. It’s a mark of authenticity and quality that Napolita takes very seriously. This applies to their pasta, imported from Naples, as well as salad and dessert ingredients, but is most strongly felt in their Neapolitan pizzas. The mozzarella di Bufala is flown in from southern Italy every week, and both the flour they use and the wood-burning pizza oven itself were flown in from Naples.
Napolita’s atmosphere is warm and intimate.The front room is a bar with chalkboard menus and subway tiled walls. High top tables offer the perfect elevated view of the domed pizza oven in the corner as an endless parade of pizzas slide into the glowing mouth and exit 90 seconds later, crust perfectly risen and slightly blackened by temperatures nearing 1,000 degrees.
The top shelves of the bar are reserved for a wide selection of Italian grappas, a hard liquor digestivo made from the leftovers of the winemaking process. The lightest of these was sweet and fruity, port-like with a blueberry aftertaste. The strongest is very powerful, with an earthy agriculture foretaste that dissolves into a strong alcohol afterburn.
Napolita means business. So much so, that they hesitated to offer their exceptional pizzas as take-out. “They won’t do it in Italy,” explained co-owner Josh Schonfeld. Eventually, Napolita had to yield to the demand for take-out, but having experienced it both ways, we have to agree with Schonfeld.
Straight from the oven, you don’t just taste the difference, you feel the difference.
Constant readers already know that we’re suckers for a meat and cheese board. This one is top shelf. Four Italian cheeses—Bel Paese, semi-soft from the Lombardy region; Grana Padano, slow-ripened and Parmesan-like; Fontal, soft, mild, and creamy; and a pillow of fresh Mozzarella, sliced and sprinkled with pepper—take up one side of the board. Four sliced meats—salami; two types of soppressata, a spicy and a mild; and prosciutto—round out the mouth-wateringly savory side of the board. A row of warm housemade crostinis serve as the base of each bite, and Italian olives, candied walnuts, and fig jam add delightful flavor accents and recalibrate the palate.
VERDURE ARROSTO PIZZA
This is one of their white (Bianca) pizzas, meaning no red sauce. Now, American pizza is my favorite food in the world. So with one half of the menu split into Rossa (with sauce) and Bianca pizzas, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even glance at the Bianca side of the menu. But a strong recommendation from our extremely personable server John brought this pizza to our table. It was the highlight of the night. Verdure Arrosto translates into Roasted Vegetables, so this pizza is topped with roasted tomato, portabello and cremini mushrooms, garlic, and Brussels sprouts. A coating of truffle oil delivers a kick from the first bite and the mixture of mushrooms and sprouts add a meaty complexity to this vegetarian offering. A mixture of fontal, goat cheese, parmesan, and fresh mozzarella combine with the authentic Italian crust to deliver a pizza that needs no assistance from any red sauce.
POLLO ALLA PARMIGIANA
Aside from pizzas, this is their most popular entree. Succulent all-natural, free-range chicken is breaded and covered in a thick cap of melted mozzarella cheese, mari- nara, and fresh basil. Simple, classic, perfect. The impec- cable quality of the ingredients and the expert preparation make this textbook comfort food.The side of linguine pasta comes with housemade marinara sauce, but we recommend swapping it out for their exemplary Bolognese sauce. It adds just the right savory kick that rounds out the flavors on the plate.
Napolita is located at 1126 Central Avenue in Wilmette, 224-215-0305, napolitapizza.com.