Stanziato's Wood-fired Pizza
35 Lake Avenue Ext., Danbury CT (map); 203-885-1057; stanziatos.com
Pizza style: Neapolitan-style The Skinny: Danbury's finest wood-fired red and white pizzas
Price: 12-inch pizzas, $9.95 to $15.95
Notes: Closed Sundays
Matt Stanczak presides over the year-old Stanziato's Wood-Fired Pizza in Danbury, Connecticut, an oasis of serious pizza tucked away in strip mall near-obscurity. At first glance, Stanziato's may look like a relaxed slice joint, but once you look closer, you'll notice that it's a place that takes its pies and ingredients very seriously.
Exhibit A: The black-tiled wood-burning oven, looming and authoritative, greets you as you enter. Chalkboards hang above to share the seasonally shifting menu. Exhibit B: Stanczak regularly shops the local farms (including Holbrook Farm around the corner in Bethel) for ingredients to adorn his 12-inch pies. The menu, which also boasts salads, soups, and wood-fired chicken wings, is otherwise divided equally into red and white pies. And finally, Exhibit C: A custom-made wood bin to house an ample supply of New England hardwood.
But the real proof is in the pizza. The telltale signs of wood fire are prominent on a Stanziato's pie, and the result is a delightfully chewy crust. A light, crackly char on the crust exterior belies a soft, pillowy interior. It's light yet sturdy, standing firm to most toppings you can throw at it. Stanczak has a local wood contact who relishes supplying Stanziato's with a variety of hardwood, (maple, hickory, ash and so on) which I have to believe contributes to the unique character of a Stanziato pie.
I've dined on both take-out and dine-in pizzas, and although the latter is always preferable, the take-home pies are carefully orchestrated. Stanczak is quick to share his disapproval of the grab-and-go but happily doles out specific reheating instructions involving a pre-heated pizza stone. Take-home pies are uncut to avoid sogginess.
The Margherita features discs of fresh mozzarella placed evenly across healthy smears of slightly herby tomato sauce and a smattering of basil leaves. This is the place to start at Stanziato's. The crust is a delicately charred affair with tiny bubbles marking the outer edges, possibly indicating a quick finish near the intense heat of the top of the domed wood-fired oven.
Things get even better from there, especially when pork is added to the mix. A white pie with prosciutto starts with a simple base of fresh mozzarella studded with fresh cherry tomatoes. The prosciutto is sliced paper-thin, and a drizzle of balsamic and some scattered fresh basil completes the composition.
A white pie called the Heavenly Bacon (pictured at top) is covered generously with mozzarella, bacon, cherry tomatoes and just a hint of garlic. The white pies have the advantage of allowing you to taste the flavor of the yeasty, smoky crust without the sauce's mask.
Stanczak is a man who knows his New York-Neapolitan pizzerias. He's quick to say he's inspired by spots like Motorino and Lucali. His reverence for these New York institutions combined with his tenure at the CIA is reflected in the consistently chewy, evenly charred and vibrantly flavored pies Stanziato's cranks out.