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What's the Italian equivalent of barbecue? Neapolitan pizza, I'm betting. Because proper Neapolitan pizza, fashioned from Caputo tipo 00 flour imported from Naples, crushed tomatoes from San Marzano and cheese from the finest buffalos, is a man's game through and through, a seemingly simple food that rewards incredibly expensive equipment, pyromaniac OCD and a set of rules, the Vera Pizza Napoletana specifications, whose rigidity might dismay even the Taliban.
Settebello is the newest of many new Neapolitan-pizza specialists in town, a branch of a small chain headquartered near Las Vegas, a bright, gleaming dining room in the Playhouse District of Pasadena, dominated by a huge, fire-spitting dome. And from the big dome, heated to nearly 1,000 degrees, comes an almost infinite succession of hand-thrown pies, stretchy but paper-thin, freckled with charred spots, glistening with minimal applications of tomato sauce, basil and cheese; sausage, fennel and cream; or mushrooms, pancetta and toasty pine nuts -- crisped off in about 90 seconds in the incredible heat.
As in Italian pizza parlors, the non-pizza dishes are authentically lousy, prosciutto wrapped like fiberglass around arugula and goat cheese; caprese salad made with pink supermarket tomatoes; or, you know, just a salad. And as at most Neapolitan-style pizzerias, you are told that some things are forbidden, although there are worse things in life than being denied pepperoni, and while you're told that you have to cut your own pizza at the table, they'll slice it for you if you happen to be nervous around sharp objects.
Do the owners know that Settebello is the most popular brand of Italian condoms? They must. Nutella pizza for dessert.