First Meal: Una Pizza Napoletana

My search is now over. I have found my favorite pizza in New york, and hence the world. The fact that it is also the most expensive pizza I have ever eaten cannot be ignored, but Una Pizza Napoletana, in the East Village, makes pizza so good that I think I would pay any price for it.

Tucked away on unassuming 12th Street in the East Village, behind an unimpressive storefront, Anthony Mangieri is doing something amazing with pizza. His secret is in the dough — he does not use yeast. Instead, he allows each batch of dough (which contains only flour, sea salt, and water) to ferment naturally with a piece of the previous day’s dough. The dough is so integral to the operation that Una Pizza is open Thursday through Sunday from 5pm until sold out of dough.

What this results in is a dough that is perfectly light and chewy, a dough that I was fantasizing about days after eating it. It is perfectly charred in the small wood-fired brick oven, and is best eaten when it is still just hot enough to singe the tips of your fingers. Of course, this is not a bread store, and just featuring an amazing crust is not quite enough to make great pizza.

The other thing that Una Pizza does better than any other pizza I’ve eaten is balance the ingredients on the crust. Di Fara’s is excellent, but I found it too oily. Lucali’s and Lombardi’s are both very good, but have too much sauce. In fact, I had planned on writing about Lucali’s before, but after eating Una Pizza there doesn’t seem to be any point. The Margherita pizza I had was such a perfectly balanced mix of the tomatoes, the mozzarella, oil, basil, and sea salt that I almost wanted to cry when I first bit into it. It all works so well together, with the crispy, chewy, salty crust, that it seems to me to be the perfect expression of pizza. Nothing else I have eaten even comes close.

The price of the pizza cannot be ignored. The pizza only comes in one size, about 12 inches across, and only in 4 varieties. For this 12 inch round of perfection you have to pay, after taxes, over $22. Yes, $22 for a 12 inch pizza. That’s even crazier than the prices at Di Fara’s. And yet how much is the perfect pizza worth to you? And unlike Di Fara’s, my pizza only took 20 minutes to make.

I should be clear — this is my favorite pizza in the world. Pizza is such a subjective thing that not everybody may agree on it. I can only say that everyone needs to eat this pizza, and make up their own minds. And unlike some others, I have still not eaten a pizza that transcends itself — this is just the perfect expression of pizza, what every pizza should be. I suppose it’s a good thing that every pizza is not this good though; it would rob Una Pizza Napoletana of what makes it really special — it is unique.

Warning: Una Pizza Napoletana is closed for vacation until mid-September.

Una Pizza Napoletana — 349 East 12th St


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