5 great pizza restaurants in Napa Valley

By Michael Bauer

Pizza seems as if it would be a simple preparation to master, but talk to anyone who tries to make it right and it will sound like Sisyphus rolling the stone up the hill and never quite makingit.

Photo Credit:John Henry

The heat of the oven, the yeast and the type of water in the crust, and the weather can become the enemy ofconsistency.

Pizza is truly an artisan endeavor. I did a tour of pizza places in the Napa Valley and, while I didn't expect perfection, I was surprised at how lame some versions were, even at places that have a reputation for producing a greatproduct.

However, I did find five that would bring me back for more. Each is a little different, so we asked the staffs what they do to set their version apart, and what they think is the perfect pairing with theirpizza.

Photo Credit:John Henry

Bistro DonGiovanni

The puffy edges flecked with tiny blackened blisters, the bright sweet-acidic tomato sauce with perfect melting polka dots of mozzarella and bright green flecks of basil combine to make a perfect-lookingpie.

The flavor doesn't disappoint, either. The crust has a steamy, bread-like consistency encased in elusive crispness. Chef-ownerDonna Scalauses the 00 flour used in classic Neapolitan pizzas. She then ages oak wood to use in the wood oven, which rises to a temperature of 650 to 700degrees.

However, I often forgo the pizza here because so many other things are excellent: chicken under a brick, fritto misto and the hamburger, to name afew.

Pizzas offered:I love the margherita ($15), but at this time of year there's a pie with figs and Gorgonzola dolce ($16) and another with hot Italian sausage, peppers, onions and smoked mozzarella ($17). And, for the kids, the Bambini ($14), with tomato, basil, fries and “no green stuff.” Adults like it,too.

Beverage pairing:The house staff prefers beer, and many of the winemaker customers probably agree. After making wine all day, they often like something a little different. However, for guests who insist on wine, the staff recommends a Chianti for the richer pizzas and a Falanghina from Naples for those partial to whitewine.

4100Howard Lane(off Highway 29), Napa; (707) 224-3300.www.bistrodongiovanni.com. Lunch and dinner daily.

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