3085 University Avenue, San Diego CA 92104 (map); 619-255-7300; urbnnorthpark.com; second location in Vista
Pizza Style: New Haven–style
Oven Type: Coal-fired
The Skinny: Craft pies with paper-thin crust are the star offerings, but the wings are killer, too
Price: Craft pies range from $11 to $18 or you can build your own pizza
Coal-fired pizza has arrived in San Diego. Jon Mangini, who previously launched Basic in downtown's East Village neighborhood recently opened two more pizza restaurants in short order.
The specialty at URBN is New Haven–style pizza with a SoCal twist. In keeping with traditional New Haven–style, pizzas are cooked in a coal oven and are served on a tray with waxed paper. The major point of difference between URBN's pizzas and traditional apizza is the crust, which was charred, but not to the degree that New Haven–style pizza typically is, and extremely thin — thinner, even, than a New York–style pie.
At URBN, you can order a pre-designed "craft pie" or choose your own combination, starting with a base (red or white, with mozzarella or without). There are a good range of vegetable toppings, such as artichoke heart, fried eggplant, and arugula, plus an assortment of meats (including white anchovy, meatball, and bacon).
The crust on the chicken and spinach pie was incredibly thin and crisp, flecked on the underside with coal char. Despite the fact that it was loaded with toppings, it didn't droop downwards when I picked up a slice. While the crust was super thin in the center of the pie, it was a bit thicker and pleasantly chewy around the outside edge.
Garlic-seasoned chunks of chicken were loaded on the crust, and the layer of spinach dwarfed the crisp base. The pie had three distinct flavors: slightly bitter spinach, sharp, earthy Parmesan, and the moist and flavorful chicken, all which were well balanced. Would you see this pie in New Haven? Possibly not, but it was quite satisfying.
URBN's signature mashed potato pizza starts with the same paper-thin crust and is topped with mozzarella, Parmesan, a layer of mashed potatoes, and pancetta. The fluffy and creamy texture of the buttery mashed spuds provides an interesting counterpoint to the crisp crust, and the porky pancetta stands out nicely. It's a mild pie, with comforting flavors and enjoyable textures, but the pieces that lacked pancetta were a little bland. Crushed red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and herbs are available on each table for doctoring.
With pizza this good, it's tempting to focus on the pies, but the chicken wings are worth a little of your stomach space. These meaty, succulent morsels are seasoned with garlic and rosemary, then baked in the coal-fired pizza oven, which speckles the skin with clusters of char. The fresh mozzarella-loaded caprezanella salad with homemade croutons was excellent, as were cocktails like the ginger-heavy Ginger Rodgers and the earthy Lemon Thyme Cooler. There are also a dozen well-chosen craft brews on draft.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a freelance food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best cheap and tasty eats in San Diego. She always saves room for dessert.