The original premise of this blog was to document my devotion to thin crisp New York-style pizza. Now, after several enjoyable experiences with the definitely-not-crisp Neapolitan style, the question needs to be asked: “Is the Pizza Snob softening up?”
During the cold busy months of winter, I was working more than I liked, and had not travelled anywhere. My backlog of pizza exploits to editorialize was empty. This void made me look to my own backyard of Nashville to rediscover Bella Napoli Pizzeria. Per my financial records, me, Mrs. Pie and the kids dined at Bella way back in 2010. My memory only recalls total snobbery towards pizza of the Neapolitan variety which Bella serves.
I called my old friend, Mr. Calzone Guy, for a midweek lunch at Bella. Mentioning this to my son, The Kid, who used to work right above the place, he offered this one-word description: “Authentic!” I was ready.
The lunch date arrived, and we drove over to Nashville’s small but quite hip Edgehill area. There, two sides of a city block feature some old buildings reconfigured into some shops and places to eat. Bella is off the street, tucked inside the corridors of an alleyway where some business offices operate. Edgehill can be a parking challenge. My tip is to take a shot at passing over the two pay lots and driving down Villa Place a bit. Chances are good you can find a spot in the residential area leaving you with just a short walk back.
Walking up the stairs into the inner area of the Edgehill complex, Bella’s bright Italian-colored sign is the first thing you will spot. It’s a charming little place with plenty of seating, both indoors and out. Inside, they fire up pizzas in a small wood-burning oven in plain view for all to see. Arriving about 11:45 mid-week, we were the first lunch customers of the day although several other parties soon trickled in.
The Bella pizza menu was like other places I’ve seen where they split it into red and white sections. My pick was the red traditional Margherita: tomato sauce, Mozzarella and basil leaves. While they were offering 8-inch pies for lunch specials, I went for the whole regular 12-inch deal which was $12.95 and turned out to be just the right size for my appetitie. I don’t have to tell you what Mr. Calzone Guy ordered.
Our food came quick, and I was totally taken by how absolutely beautiful my pizza looked. The crust along the outside rim was popped up and covered all around with charred pizza bubbles. The inside colors would have made the Italian Queen this pizza was named for proud. The cheese, sauce and oil were all nicely blended together, and the amount of cheese was just right, not skimpy like these pies often find themselves. There were no signs of the soupy swirl in the middle that can make a pie like this a soggy disaster. Yeah, by the time I got to the last slice it was a bit wet and soft. Here’s some wisdom: A Neapolitan pie is meant to be eaten quickly. So, get to business and don’t let it hang around too long.
As “Nea’s” often are, Bella’s pie is served uncut. Looking for some inside commentary, I asked my waiter whether I should cut or rip? He said he likes to use a knife and fork to work the pieces from the outside in. I decided instead to do what I’m more used to, and I cut a big X through it that left four slices that I could pick up and fold.
I was totally floored by how good this pie tasted. Allowing the cheese and sauce to blend like they did is what made each bite a full-flavored delight. The char on the crust was enticingly tasty. The crust was soft, moist, chewy and downright fresh. I closed my eyes as I savored the taste of delicious balls of dough that delightfully dissolved in my mouth.
Despite my previous-mentioned softening, Neapolitan still isn’t my go-to pizza. However, as far as Neapolitan’s go, there isn’t much more these guys could do to make this pizza any better. Not only is this the best one I’ve had in Nashville, it’s on par with ones I have had in New York and Italy. Bella deserves to be a secret no more, and I hope this blog piece helps spread the word.
Oh, yeah, as for the calzone, it didn’t look much different from the pizza except that it was stacked taller and not as wide. While Mr. Calzone Guy liked the taste, to him, he missed the crunch usually found in a more classic calzone.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ***** Sets the Standard (for Neapolitan that is!)
1200 Villa Pl. #206 (at Edgehill Ave.) Nashville, TN 37212