Pizza Nea

2 Feb

Pizza Nea
Visited Saturday, January 29th 2011

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Lauren

First off: Let us not delve into the endless battle of factions between those devoted to Punch Pizza and the lovers of Pizza Nea. I want no part in that war because I love pizza, and in my humblest of opinions I believe that the options and the competition make everyone better. There is room in my heart, and stomach, for Neapolitan, Chicago style deep dish, Midwestern square-cut, and even occasionally the Pizza Hut Pan Pizza of my childhood memory in all of its oily, bread-y deliciousness.

That said, Pizza Nea sets the bar for itself mighty high with the title bar of their website: “Pizza Perfection in the Neapolitan Tradition”. So rightly I had high expectations walking in and immediately they were disappointed as we stood in the foyer of Nea, awkwardly, for several minutes waiting for one of the two servers to notice us. There was a sign in between the two doors advising us to wait for service but no clear direction of where we ought to wait. Once one noticed us, the other did and for a little while every question was in stereo, separated by a minute or two. Have you been assisted? No, then yes. Just the two of you? Yes, yes. Hang on a moment while I clean this table off for you. Okay, okay.

I was hungry! I had wanted to get a salad in addition to the pizzas, but Ryan confessed that he had eaten nearly an entire bag of frozen potstickers while I was curling my hair, so he wasn’t all that hungry. Was that a cost-saving strategy on the part of my beloved? I suppose I will never know, but it did save us from ordering that salad.

I ordered a mid-range Carmenere from their wine list while Ryan ordered one of the pricy bottled beers and I set about trying to find a pizza to order. Too many choices, that is always my problem. After he took our drink orders, I asked the server if there were any specials that night and he looked at me like I was a mental defect – umm, sorry?

We had both scoped out the menu online prior to leaving and independently thought that the Gambero sounded good, and when we checked into Pizza Nea on foursquare on our Droids, all of the tips left there advised us to order the Salsicce, which was the other pizza we both thought sounded good. I was tempted by the other offerings that had artichokes and olives on them, but I knew I wanted to try some of whatever Ryan got so it was easiest to get something else that he would enjoy as well! Next time I will definitely get something with olives and goat cheese that Ryan will refuse to touch. 😉

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Our pizzas were out in just a few minutes and they did not disappoint! I was very pleased how the shrimp on the Gambero was plump and juicy. I am sure that it helps that Neapolitan pizzas are only cooked for a few minutes in a very hot oven, to keep delicate meats from drying out. The Salsicce was very spicy, as advertised, and not as greasy as I would expect from a pizza with sausage, and I loved the chiffonade of basil on top.

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One thing I did enjoy over Punch (though disclaimer: I have only eaten at the satellite locations, never at the Highland Park site) was that the crust wasn’t as greasy and floppy at Nea, as it is at Punch. I don’t enjoy mushy, soft bread so the squishy middle is a real turn-off at Punch for me. I suppose we will have to go to the Punch in Highland Punch soon to get the full experience, just out of fairness! 🙂

I found the portions at Pizza Nea to be more than satisfactory, probably because the crust seems to be a little more substantial than at Punch. If Ryan hadn’t eaten a first dinner, I am sure that we would have ordered a salad to share in addition to the pizzas.

Ambiance – Cute, and very small. The atmosphere is very down-to-earth, almost similar to a coffee shop with the local art for sale on the wall. We were seated right near the door so we got a shot of cold air whenever someone came in, however.
Service – It was weird, honestly, almost like they weren’t sure who should do what. Two servers tripping over each other at first, and then the guy who ended up actually serving us looked at me like I was some kind of crazy when I asked about nightly specials. Other than that, they were very hands-off, which I think is a good thing.
Food – Really tasty! Basic neo pizza, but jazzed up – if you want it to be. We really liked both of the pizzas that we shared. I thought the crust was just about perfect, with no mushiness. However, I was just a little annoyed that the menu spelled out the phonetic pronunciation of Every. Single. Item. Is it really so offensive if I mispronounce “Siciliana”? And, seriously: “Caesar (SEE-zur)”? Is that necessary? Given that the Caesar salad is a menu staple at approximately every restaurant in the world, ever, how many people really come in off the street and order the “Kaiser” salad, hmm?
Overall experience – We really got a weird vibe at first from the servers but everything settled down and we totally forgot about it when we got our pizzas – they were both so good. It would be fun to return and sit at the bar to watch them make and fire the pizzas. I thought it was a relatively simple but quite tasty meal, and definitely was an affordable night out.

Ryan

As we sat waiting for our server to come over, I told Lauren that as recently as two years ago, I never would have predicted I’d be willingly sitting at a pizza restaurant, and even ordering something off the pizza section of the menu. Having been a lifelong hater of cheese, I had just taken all pizza totally out of the equation. But thanks largely to Lauren’s cooking and our trip to Jamaica, I have finally, at age 28 1/2, warmed up to trying just about anything as long as it doesn’t have goat cheese on it. I was really good at being stubborn and picky for many years but dammit, even I can’t avoid pizza for a lifetime. I don’t have that kind of energy to argue anymore.

I found two pizzas that looked appealing to me on the Pizza Nea menu, and Lauren must have agreed with me because we decided to get those two and share them. The Salsicce consisted of Spicy Italian sausage, roasted red pepper, cracked red pepper, fresh mozzarella, crushed San Marzano tomatoes and basil. The Gambero was topped with shrimp, roasted red and yellow peppers, pesto, pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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I foolishly ate 14 Trader Joe’s potstickers not more than an hour before we left home, so I wasn’t as hungry as I would have liked. I usually complain about small portion sizes, but on this night, the two pizzas were almost too much for us to handle. I surprisingly think I preferred the Salsicce even though it looked less appealing than the Gambero, which included a handful of big shrimp and strips of bell peppers. The pizzas were baked to my liking with a thin crust, and plenty of outer bready crust.

The atmosphere of Pizza Nea was pleasant; not overly busy for a Saturday night. Our service was fine, nothing terribly noteworthy good or bad, though I had some troubles hearing our waiter who talked in an unusual voice. The prices were reasonable all-around. Two pizzas, a beer, and glass of wine for about $40 was right on par with what I expected. If I had a gripe with Pizza Nea, it was that they didn’t have any chicken pizzas on their menu and those are always my favorite.

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The Necessities
Pizza Nea
306 East Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
612.331.9298

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2 Responses to “Pizza Nea”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pizza Nea « Eating in Minneapolis | pan pizza - February 2, 2011

    […] There is room in my heart, and stomach, for Neapolitan, Chicago style deep dish, Midwestern square-cut, and even occasionally the Pizza Hut Pan Pizza of my childhood memory in all of its oily, bread-y deliciousness. … Go here to read the rest: […]

  2. Totally Cheese - February 2, 2011

    […] Pizza Nea « Eating in Minneapolis Having been a lifelong hater of cheese I had just taken all pizza totally out of the equation. But thanks largely to Lauren's cooking and our trip to Jamaica, I have finally, at age 28 1/2, warmed up to trying just about anything as . […]

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