“Apizza” is not a typo, nor is it the first listing for pizzas in the yellow pages. It’s a style of pizza originating in New Haven, Conn. A plain pizza is crust, oregano and tomato sauce with a little bit of grated pecorino Romano cheese sprinkled on. Mozzarella is considered to be a topping; a customer who wants it must ask for it. What makes New Haven-style pizza distinct is its thin crust, characteristic charring, chewy texture, and limited use of melting cheeses.
This is a family business that started at the North Shore of Lake Tahoe in 1986, spent a few years in Truckee, and then, a few months ago, moved to Reno. Dad Andy Peluso, the pie master, came to Connecticut from Italy when he was five, and has carried on the family tradition. Son Carmine, a pedigreed chef, has a degree from Johnson and Wales, a prestigious culinary school. He won a full scholarship as a senior at North Tahoe High School in a national culinary competition in 2003. He's a master of doughs. Brandon Marich masterfully runs the front-of-the-house.
For the most part, the pies and sandwiches are take-out, either baked or bake-at-home. There’s a small eat-in area, but no table service. It’s a decent menu with 18 pies ranging from 9 inches to 16 inches ($6.35-$19.85) and 9-inch subs and grinders ($7.50-$8). By-the-slice, cheese pizza is $3.75 with toppings $.50 each. They offer a couple of salads ($5), garlic bread ($4), Brushchetta ($5.75), Italian cheese melt ($5), and chicken wings (6/$6-12/$11). The crusts and sandwich breads are a family secret, and the best breads I have ever eaten in Reno.
The pastrami melt ($8) and the meat was generous, moist and flavorful with light mustard and mayo on Carmine’s bread. This is a yeast-leavened dough that takes him 24 hours to make resulting in food artistry and James Beardian flavor. I tried half a meatball with Mozzarella and the house sauce ($7.50), and a capri veggie with artichoke hearts, bell peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, lemon parmigiana dressing and provolone warmed ($7.50). (I do not like bell peppers. They give me heartburn.) But these were first roasted with some olive oil, and I found them edible with no problems. The sandwich was full of flavors with a little saltiness and citrus finish. The meatball sandwich was a masterpiece.
My pizza parade started with a Clams Casino with roasted red peppers, bacon, fresh garlic, parsley purée, light red sauce and Romano and Mozzarella cheeses. Clams Casino was originally developed in 1917 in the Little Casino in Narragansett, R.I. It had a slightly spicy savor flavor. This pie was every bit that and more with the purée that added a zest to the layers of savory, salty, and hint of tomato. The cheeses added the body to hold everything together on the superb crust.
Then, I had a Florentine chicken with spinach, garlic, lemon parmigiana base. Parmigiana is an Italian dish made with a shallow or deep-fried sliced filling, layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked. Romano and Mozzarella cheeses were next. The acidity flowed into the saltiness and the spinach helped marry the cheese with the fowl and another adventure in flavors was born. An offering of pastas is coming in the near future.
They snuck in a cannoli ($1.50) and their filling was a fresh ricotta, orange zest, vanilla in a light shell, not the hard type, with pistachios at one end and chocolate chips at the other.
In Italian families, food is about more than simply filling your belly. It gives a sense of shared culture among friends and neighbors. Apizza brings that tradition to Reno.