Neapolitan pizza is a tricky thing.
With little more than a few fresh ingredients and sparse toppings, the style leaves very little room for error. Perhaps the biggest misconception here in the states is the implications of the dreaded wet or soggy crust. It’s not uncommon for true Neapolitan pies to be so wet in the center that a fork and knife are a necessity, nor is that considered a failure.
For whatever reason, this doesn’t play well with our American palates and many pizzaiolos adjust their recipes to avoid it. A matter of seconds can make the difference between a soft, charred crust with a slight chew and the soupy mess that irks many diners.
Metro Atlanta’s newest restaurant touting authentic Neapolitan pizza, Sapori di Napoli in Decatur, comes to us from the team of Naples-born brothers Daniele and Ambrogio Florio. The Florios serve traditional Neapolitan pies in a fast-casual atmosphere. Diners order at the counter and take a number to one of the wooden tabletops in the small, but warm space.
All eyes quickly turn to the impressive, imported Acunto wood-burning oven powering the kitchen. This 5,000-pound behemoth fires up at over 750 degrees and adds instant credibility in the eyes of the most devout pizza-heads.
After sampling most of their pies, it’s unclear which style of crust Sapori di Napoli aims for. Within seconds of receiving our Diavola ($17), I peek at the nicely charred underskirt and smile as I realize that the soft, slightly crisped crust holds up well under the sweet tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and strips of spicy salame.
In stark contrast, it seems the added moisture from the mushrooms atop our Salsiccia e Funghi ($18) may be too much for the dough, as my first slice collapses as soon as I pick it up. However, no amount of sogginess distracts me from enjoying the wonderfully fresh sauce or sweet Italian sausage.
If risking a soupy crust is too much for you, consider one of the sauceless Pizza Biancas. Then you can enjoy the roasted sweet peppers and sausage on the Sapori di Napoli ($17) worry-free. But the trade-off in flavor by passing up on Florio’s San Marzano tomato sauce isn’t worth it. Instead, treat yourself to the savory STG ($17), combining smoked buffalo mozzarella and speck that contrast the sweetness of the tomato sauce wonderfully.
While you wait for your pies to emerge from the roaring Acunto, start things off with an order of the wood-fired Bruschetta ($4). It arrives as four slices of crispy, toasted Italian bread draped in melted mozzarella with a rotating variety of toppings. Lighter fare like the Insalata di Tonno ($7) offers a nice change of pace from the mostly bread-and-cheese heavy menu. But steel yourself for a fishy punch, as the blend of tuna and black olives might overwhelm those sensitive to that flavor.
Lunch service offers the chance to order any of their pies, normally 15 inches and enough to feed two to three adults, in the more personal and affordable 12-inch size ($10). Or take the opportunity to try one of their lunchtime paninis like the Porchetta e Provola ($7), with roasted pork, smoked buffalo, tomatoes and basil, served on house-made bread.
Sapori benefits from the Florios’ focus on high quality, fresh ingredients. The tomato sauce is excellent and the array of smoked and cured meats pack a lot of flavor. The brothers Florio apply them with a light and skilled touch. But on each visit, the service took too much away from the experience.
I’m never one to rush a meal, but a half-hour wait on a semi-busy night for a pizza that requires just two minutes in the oven may frustrate some. They would do well to add a dedicated runner to the staff, as there is often only one employee juggling taking orders, serving drinks and delivering food. I can forgive watching the party behind us receive their drinks and appetizers before we get our first glass of water, but it is difficult to excuse the soggy crust on our Napoletana ($16) after watching it sit at the server’s station for five minutes before making it to our table.
Like a good Neapolitan pie, Sapori di Napoli has all of the right ingredients for a destination pizza experience, but still has a few kinks to work out first. As someone who passes through the area frequently, I look forward to returning to see if they do.SAPORI DI NAPOLI 314 Church St., Decatur, 404-371-0001 Food: Pizza, pasta and salads Service: Friendly, but easily overwhelmed Best dishes: STG, Diavola and Bruschetta Vegetarian selections: Multiple pizzas as well as salads Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, closed Mondays Children: Yes Parking: Small free parking lot, but it can get full on busy nights Reservations: No Wheelchair access: Yes Smoking: No Noise level: Moderate Patio: Yes, mostly covered Takeout: Yes