Napa, California: Pizza Blues at Azzurro Pizzeria
1260 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558 (map); 707-255-5552; azzurropizzeria.com
Pizza style: California-style meets New York-style
Oven type: Gas-fired
The skinny: Despite gourmet toppings, these pies don't quite work.
Price: Pies, $12.95 to $15.95
A Wood Stone oven decorated with spiffy blue and white tiles oversees the action at Azzurro. It turns out ultra-thin twelve-inch pies with a crunchy endcrust that had almost no puff. The temperature gauge on the oven read in the mid-600's when I took a peek, and this created a crust that had browned in some spots, but appeared more yellowed elsewhere. Without any charring to add flavor, this was a mild crust—which can be fine, as long as the stuff on top carries the day. At Azzurro, the toppings disappointed me again.
My waitress described the pizzas as Neapolitan-inspired, but the Margherita came out looking like a miniature New York-style pie. No pools of fior di latte here, but rather a layer of shredded, aged mozzarella that had mixed with the sauce underneath to take on that orangey sheen. Heck, I'd eat it either way, but the saltiness of the cheese overpowered almost everything else. Only the bites with basil boasted some balance, while the roasted tomato sauce—which did have some flavor—barely made an appearance, unless one managed to find an uncheesed clump around the edges. The undercarriage quickly went limp under the influence of a surprising amount of grease.
Azzurro's Salsiccia pie was oddly less salty than the Margherita. I was surprised to find the sausage tired and dried out. The crumbles of fennely pork tasted overcooked.
I hoped the California-style toppings would set things right, but my Funghi lost me at hello. I cringed at its sickly complexion—the yellowish crust encircling a ring of yellow-brown roasted garlic puree, the white of melted Taleggio cheese at the center. The cloying flavor of the garlic puree ultimately sealed my dislike for this pie, though the meaty and earthy flavor of those roasted mushrooms was good enough that I picked them off the slices we didn't finish.
The Napa Valley has had an influx of upscale pizza places in the last year or two, many of which I'm eager to try. It seemed fitting to start with a place that has been around since before the trendy new spots broke ground. My visit led me to believe that the times have passed Azzurro by, though I'm holding out hope that I simply caught them on an off day.