Thin Crust Lust
Enduring love for Neapolitan pizza at Amore
photos by Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
Ah, the world spins so quickly sometimes that everything seems dislodged and free floating. Smiths employs sushi chefs, China imports chopsticks from the state of Georgia, and Lhasa Apsos, believed to hold the souls of former Tibetan llamas, are traipsing around New Jersey drinking from rain puddles. If only we could shoot our little stun gun and freeze cultural artifacts in space and time.
Oh shit! We can! With the European Union’s TSG, or Traditional Specialty Guarantee registered mark, which basically says “Aw, hells no!” to imposters trying to pass their cheese off as Roquefort, outside of Roquefort, France or billing themselves as a Neapolitan pizzeria when they aren’t following the Neapolitan technique. A TSG locks in technique, quality and craft philosophy from a specific era and region. To call yourself a “Neapolitan pizzeria,” you have to adhere to a strict formula set forth by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. There is only one such pizzeria in Burque Town and that’s Amore, occupying the space that formerly housed Bailey’s on the Beach.
The stipulations are as follows: Dough must be kneaded and formed by hand, no thicker than 3 millimeters. Oven must be fueled by hardwood to a toasty 905 F. Pizza should be baked for exactly 60-90 seconds. The sauce is best when made with San Marzano plums—bright red flavor bombs grown on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius. There are preferred metrics for olive oil acidity and content, for percentage of proteins and dry gluten in the flour, and so on and so on. According to the Associazione, the pizza should look, smell and taste a certain way. “In the center of the pie, the red of the tomato should stand out and yet be perfectly amalgamated with the oil,” for example.
It’s no wonder that the Associazione is also referred to as the “pizza police.” (Incidentally I think this would make for a great modern crime drama.)
To call yourself a “Neapolitan pizzeria,” you have to adhere to a strict formula set forth by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. There is only one such pizzeria in Burque Town and that’s Amore, occupying the space that formerly housed Bailey’s on the Beach.
So Amore imports their flour and canned tomatoes from Italy. They make their mozzarella in house and source toppings and beers locally (Armijo Farm, Old Town Farm, Moore Family Farms, Marble and Rio Grande Breweries). Their coffee is locally roasted at Villa Myriam and their Italian soda locally syrupified by Zingtopia.
But that’s not all. Gabriel and Kimberly Amador, the American owners of Amore also had to earn their certification in New York City (the only training locale outside of Naples) under APN President, Roberto Caporuscio.
So we have Amore. And a burning question: Is heirloom Neapolitan pizza really better than what’s coming out of the other gourmet thin-crust pizzerias in town? Is it stunningly special? Like biting into your first African sugarloaf pineapple after eating only imported Doles for your entire life?
Well, no, because there’s more than one way to make a fabulous pizza. We needn’t go back to Naples to save a dying art. But Amore does offer a superb, flavor-rich, thin-crust pizza on par with their gourmet peers. The only chink I’ve found so far was an over-charred crust on one of my orders. I guess that’s what happens when you leave a pizza ten seconds too long in a 905 degree oven.
So all cultural cachet aside, here’s what’s truly fine about Amore:
Sauce: The tomato sauce is a brilliant full-flavor Pomodoro-with-a-capital-P sauce. To really lap it up, order the traditional Margherita pizza ($8.25).
Toppings: Amore traffics solely in fresh and select ingredients. The Zia pizza ($9.15) featuring a cream sauce base with fresh roasted green chile and fresh roasted corn is a prime example. Also killer is their prosciutto, arugula, parmigiano-reggiano pizza (Il Roberto, $10.95) for which they don’t even bother to shred the prosciutto but just blanket the pizza in thin salty sheets.
Innovation: Although Amore’s menu includes Italian favorites like caprese salad and tiramisu, the Amadors aren’t clinging tooth and nail to tradition. Look no further than their Pizza sushi ($10.50), Bailey’s blackened mahi mahi (in homage to the former occupants of the space) rolled in pizza dough instead of nori, served with a mound of mango cabbage slaw and garnished with arugula and cherry tomatoes.
The deep, smoky fish flavor in their signature thin, crispy dough makes for a sultry, darkling little dish, brightened by the mango slaw. It’s Scandinavia meets Italy meets the tropics. The tomatoes and mangoes lend sweetness and the arugula, a herbaceous bitter rub.
There’s also a dessert calzone ($6.75). Much like pizza sushi, this sounds like an awful idea on paper, like something the creative team at Pizza Hut hammered out in a boardroom. But again, it works in a rustic, street dessert kind of way—choose your fillings from Nutella, strawberries, bananas, sweet mascarpone, honey, almond and/or peanut butter.
At the heart of Amore, there’s no pretension or snobbery. They are here to have fun, very much riding the same wave as Bailey’s on the Beach. As if to prove the point, against the splashy chocolate and cherry walls there’s a New Mexican pastiche mural of Pulcinella, the trickster figure born in the Commedia dell’arte, who represents the working class of Naples.
Pulcinella’s likeness often pops up in Neapolitan pizzerias as a kind of unholy patron saint. He also serves as a reminder, as the Associazione insists that "the Neapolitan pizza has no inventors, no fathers, no owners, but is the result of the genius of the Neapolitan people."
That seems like a legacy worth preserving.
2929 Monte Vista Blvd NE
Hours: Tues-Thurs 11am-8:30pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-10pm, Sunday 5pm-8:30pm
Price Range: $8-11
Vibe: Ripe, youthful, casual
Vegetarian Options: Yes
Extras: Patio dining. 10% discounts for students, educators, military, cops and firefighters (with ID).
Alibi Recommends: The Margherita, Zia, Il Roberto and Insalata pizzas; Pizza Sushi, Tiramisu