By Kirsti Bloom
The American version of pizza has deviated from the authentic found in Italy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: Chicago made the dish all its own with thick crust and pounds of toppings, and while New York’s hand-tossed thin crust resembles the Italian classic, it’s the large slices that set it apart. A mix of varied takes can be found throughout Newport, from the simple, no-frills versions served at Laventina’s Big Cheese Pizza on the peninsula to the customizable artisanal pies at Fashion Island’s Blaze Pizza. Of the myriad places to order a slice or whole pizza, there’s one newcomer forging its own path by going back to the basics: Pizzeria Sapori.
Connected to Sapori Ristorante in the Bayside Shopping Center, the pizzeria concept was launched by chef and owner Sal Maniaci. He says he stays true to the Neapolitan roots of pizza to offer the most authentic version to diners. In addition to an imported pizza oven in the back of the pizzeria to cook the pies, the biggest differentiating factor is the dough. On most days—usually from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.—Maniaci can be found in the back of the pizzeria preparing dough for each pie. A laborious process, the dough takes 72 hours to ferment.
“Most people don’t want to go through this regimen because it’s very time-consuming,” Maniaci explains. “The night before, we do a pre-mix and then we wait 24 hours and then add remaining ingredients which is 70 percent less of the flour plus water, flour and salt. Then we do the folding. … It will go into the refrigerator for another 48 hours at a very low temperature so the maturation process happens very slowly. By the time we make the dough, it’s very light and a beautiful product.
“You can eat without the feeling of being full or bloated,” he continues. “It’s healthy, artisanal pizza and the beauty is when you have people come up to you and say, ‘Oh my God, that was the best pizza I’ve ever had’ because of the crust.”
While Maniaci attributes the crust for the discerning quality of his pizzas, the other ingredients are just as important in setting Pizzeria Sapori apart from others. The first thing diners will notice about the menu is the phrase DOP. A commonly asked question, it stands for “Denominazione di Origine Protetta,” and indicates the ingredient is made by local farmers in Italy using traditional methods. For instance, the tomato of choice for the pizze rosses (red pizzas) is the Solania brand of San Marzano tomatoes.
One pizza Maniaci is quick to recommend is the capricciosa. It features the San Marzano tomatoes along with artichokes, mushrooms, prosciutto cotto, homemade mozzarella, pecorino romano, basil and extra virgin olive oil. For a much more simple yet authentic pizza, opt instead for the campagnola, with only prosciutto di Parma and mushrooms as the toppings. And to really let the crust shine, Maniaci suggests the classic margherita DOP. The mozzarella di bufala campana used on the pie is imported from Italy and combined with basil and extra virgin olive oil. It’s easily a crowd-pleaser and one of the most requested pizzas, Maniaci says.
There’s more to the menu than just pizza to round out an authentic Italian meal. Under the insalate section of the menu, find a signature salad with butter lettuce, Granny Smith apples, hearts of palm, walnuts and a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. A heartier option, the spinach salad combines baby spinach with bacon, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, slivered almonds and lemon vinaigrette dressing.
As far as antipasti menu selections, the fried calamari is a go-to choice as is the bowl of olives, an accompaniment that coincides with the restaurant’s goal to use imported ingredients. The green olives are sourced from Castelvetrano, Sicily.
Unlike Sapori Ristorante, which is open for lunch and dinner daily, Pizzeria Sapori is only open for dinner hours from 4:30-10 p.m. Diners should be sure to complete their dinner with a craft cocktail from the bar, which marks the physical separation of the restaurant and the pizzeria. Even the drinks are reminiscent of Italy: The Tuscan Sunset puts a twist on a cranberry-vodka with Square One Bergamot vodka, Tuaca, amaretto di serrano, cranberry juice and lime. There’s also the Venetian Hop, made with Hophead vodka, aperol, orange juice, lemon juice and honey. Italian beers are also available, with options ranging from a Birra Moretti lager to a Lara Rubja IPA red beer.
The next time you’re craving a taste of Naples, Italy, fulfill your wanderlust by stopping by Pizzeria Sapori.