The thin, blistered crust and fresh toppings that mark Neapolitan pizza can inspire intense passion among its devotees, some of whom must travel for it: The U.S. boasts fewer than 100 Naples-style pizzerias. So Burlingtonians may count themselves lucky that the tradition has arrived in town via Pizzeria Verità, which officially opened its doors on Monday evening.
During the preceding week of soft openings, at least one local diner showed up three nights in a row for the pies of owners John Rao and Leslie Wells, according to Seven Days food writer Alice Levitt, who spoke to him on one of those occasions.
The pair’s menu includes 16 pizzas — four of them gluten free — with toppings ranging from San Marzano tomatoes, fresh herbs and house-made mozzarella to soppressata, prosciutto di Parma, broccoli rabe and Grana Padano. One pizza forges — or fjords — into new territory: a salmon Affumicato pie topped with smoked salmon, fresh dill and shallot-sour-cream sauce. A dessert pizza is filled with Nutella and then drizzled with dark chocolate.
They all cook in less than two minutes inside a 900-degree, Italian-made oven fed by stacks of wood positioned around the restaurant — themselves part of the industrial-rustic décor by JDK Design.
Besides pizza (available for takeout as well as table service), the kitchen offers up build-your-own antipasti plates with ingredients such as white anchovies, rapini crostini, baked goat cheese, soppressata, speck and marinated olives. A quintet of salads — prepared by Amy Bacon of Bread and Butter Farm — feature local greens and seasonal ingredients such as asparagus, roasted beets, fennel and arugula.
The imaginative touches extend behind the bar, where Charles Bieler wines are decanted on tap, and a menu of imaginative cocktails includes a “Michelada Verità,” made with Long Trail Ale, and a “Morricone Old-Fashioned,” blended with grappa, bitters and grape-maple syrup. Some libations incorporate the trendy Italian liqueur Amaro, or simple syrups made with parsley and hot chile peppers.
The pizzeria has been “years” in the making, according to Rao, who perfected his pizza by crafting hundreds of pies. The crust achieves its signature chewiness with the aid of a slow-rise method and Antico Molino Caputo Tipo 00 pizza flour from Italy.
Wells, who is comanaging the front of the house, also studied the form at Kesté Pizza & Vino in New York City, the official United States location for the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, the guardian of Neapolitan pizza worldwide.
“It’s been a really smooth ramp-up to opening,” says Wells, and adds that training the pizzaioli — or staff who make the pizza — has been easier than she expected.
And the experiments will continue in tandem with Neapolitan traditionalism. Burrata-topped pies will be offered as an occasional special — that is, until the restaurant begins making its own burrata soon.
Pizzeria Verità, 156 St. Paul Street, Burlington, 489-5644. Pizzeriaverita.com