Last Tuesday my sister and I paid a visit to that ritzy Pittsburgh suburb, Mt. Lebanon. Mt. Lebo’ is the type of place I think my sister might want to live. It’s affluent, inhabited by well dressed pretty people, and filled with upscale shops perfect for spending all of her money. It’s also the type of place I might want to live. No, not to be some unkempt eyesore among the beautiful, or to be confused by designer boutique’s lack of sweatpants. I would endure all of those things (or make them endure me) because I love pizza, and Mt. Lebo is home to some of the best damn pizza I’ve ever had.
Il Pizzaiolo is known for their quality Italian fare including handmade pastas, traditional desserts, and especially their Neopolitan style Pizza. That last bit is, of course, what we had for. As far as I know, Il Pizzailo is the only place in Pennsylvania with a VPN certification, and I’m certain that they’re the only one in Pittsburgh. I’ve read from those with pizza palates far greater than mine that this is some of the best Neopolitan pie not only in PA, but the entire country.
One of the VPN’s guidelines is a wood-fired oven. This R2-D2 looking bad-boy was displayed in the front of the restaurant where diners can watch their pies take a 90 second trip to the 900-1000 degree oven. With such short cooking times, the pizza(s) come tableside just a few minutes after ordering.
Our first choice was the Margherita DOC, we had to see what the VPN certification was all about. I was worried that with so few ingredients the pie might be a bit bland – I worry too much. The flavor from the San Marzano tomato sauce was much stronger than I expected, it had a great tomato-sweetness with very little acidity. The sauce was spread on top of a thin, lightly charred crust (leopard spotting to the pizza snobs), with a slightly puffed cornicione (end crust to the non-pizza snobs) . I would have been happy with those two components alone, but the fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, and drizzle of olive oil took the pizza from great to exceptional.
Our second selection wasn’t quite as successful. I think it could have spent a few more seconds in the oven. The slight bitterness from the rapini was nice, but would have been better had the house made sausage added a bit more flavor to contrast. I tasted fennel, but not much else. Both ingredients were applied generously, but were a bit heavy for the excellent crust. A lighter, more flavorful sausage crumble and slightly longer cooking time might have had me singing praises. As presented, it certainly wasn’t a failure, but not nearly as successful as the Margherita.
I can only speak for the pizza, but have it on good authority that the same attention to quality, fresh ingredients is extended to the entire menu. I’ll be back to sample more of everything, and to order the Margherita DOC again, and again..and again. If you’re anywhere remotely close to the area, I would highly recommend a visit. If you’re a pizza fanatic – it’s worth making a much lengthier trek.