Ribalta, which boasts three different types of ovens for the three types of pizza it serves, replaces the wacky pizzeria Piola on 12th Street just below Union Square. Oh, it's also the first U.S. outpost of the Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli, which teaches folks how to make Italian and Neapolitan pizza.
Listed first on the menu is the Classica pizza: "'00' Italian our, our mother dough, and its long maturation process create our secret recipe: crispy, light and digestible."
It was crisp and light, but so far this is the one I've liked the least on my lunchtime visits to Ribalta. There's little flavor to the dough, and it's a bit dry. It's less Neapolitan than it is Neapolitan-American.
It's extremely thin, there's very little rise to the dough, and it's awfully dry. Unfortunately this one seems to be the one they've spent the most time thinking about, since 11 of their 25 pizzas are variants of this style. (Pizza in Pala has six; Neapolitan, four; and the "Pizza Speciali," [pdf], four.)
This one is cooked in the joint's "brick oven," which is simply a "gas-fired" brick-lined oven.
Pizza in Pala
The style I prefer here is the Pizza in Pala. Per Ribalta: "'Pala' is a baking method in which the dough is baked twice creating a uniquely crisp outside, soft inside."
The crust is light, springy, salty, crisp and flavorful. It stands up well to the myriad of toppings that go on. These are the most heavily topped pies on the menu.
They're also the most expensive, at $28. Granted, they're recommended for two people, but they're still a little small for that price.
This one is cooked in an electric convection oven.
The Neapolitan I tried was not bad. The sauce was fresh, a tad salty. The crust was flavorful. The cheese, a buffalo mozzarella, was creamy where it had melted (though some was just shy of that mark).
The pizza I had didn't have as much rise as some of the other Neapolitan and Neapolitan-inspired places in town, but it had enough.
Though there's talk on the website about wood-fired ovens, Ribalta was using all-gas power when we visited. The Neapolitan wasn't bad for a gas-fired pizza, but the absence of a wood fire might explain why the bottom of our pie was a bit pale.
Great Lunch Deal
There's a great lunch deal going on right now at Ribalta. You can get a Classica and a salad or soup for $8.
It comes with a selection of bread as well, so you can really fill up for very little. Granted, it's the Classica, which is no Pala or Neapolitan, but it's on par with some of the pre-pizza-boom "brick-oven" pizzas out there. If that's your bag, you can snag a deal.