Openings: Verde Pizza Napoletana, Baltimore

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Margherita (all pics from cell phone) [ Photographs:Pizzablogger]

Nine words and a name piqued my pizza curiosity: Imported smoked buffalo mozarella, sliced lemons, and fresh basil. The Sorrentina. Another word immediately leapt to mind; Keste.

I've eaten this pizza in Keste and made a replica of it many times. It's one of my all time favorite combinations of ingredients. And here it was printed on a menu in Baltimore, not exactly a bastion of Neapolitan pizza or home to many people who even know what the heck a Keste is.

Verde Pizza Napoletana

641 S. Montford St, Baltimore, MD 21224 (map); 410-522-1000; verdepizza.com
Pizza Style: Neapolitan
Oven Type: Wood Fired (Wood Stone Mountain Series)
The Skinny: Newcomer shows significant potential. Pizzaiolo has trained with Keste's Roberto Caporuscio
Price: Pizzas between $7 and $16

Opened just a couple of weeks ago in the former Birches Restaurant space, the smallish neighborhood restaurant has all of the makings of a very successful pizza joint. The space is smartly appointed with clean tile work, retro lighting fixtures and reclaimed wood, including two gorgeous table tops in the front room made of wood from a Chicago church which the owner (Ed) previously owned.

A nicely tiled Wood Stone Mountain Series oven stands guard over the back of the space, with bags of Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour and Ciao tomatoes visable in the make table area.

The menu is smart and focused. A few salads, twelve red pizzas, seven white pies, three calzones, dessert and coffee. No distractions from having to make other food items.

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Most important, owner Ed and his son Evan are pizza enthusiasts with a great attitude. Ed has eaten Neapolitan pizzas at various places around the country and in Italy. His son Evan has trained on several occasions with Keste's Roberto Caparuscio, which is as serious a teacher as one can find. Both Ed and Evan are open about their pizza making process and have the infectious enthusiasm one can only hope to find in a new pizza venture.

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My wife, baby blogger, and I had two salads, Sorrentina and Margherita pizzas and two glasses of wine last night for just under $50. Not bad. We were the first people at dinner service (4:40pm arrival), so the oven was not quite up to its maximum temperature. I clocked four pizzas at 1:48, 1:42, 1:38, and 1:34, respectively. Evan said his desired bake time is 60 to 90 seconds, which is the often-targeted sweet spot for Neapolitan-style pizzas.

More visits to get a better gauge on consistency are needed, and I'll be posting an under the hood look at Verde in a couple of months. Based on my initial visit last night, this is definitely a pizzeria to keep an eye on and visit.

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