Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Real Deal Pizza in Fullerton?

Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana
101 North Harbor
Fullerton, CA 92832

The last time we were up in Fullerton my friend Clay had mentioned how much he liked the pizzeria that is on Harbor, and that we must go. For Clay to say that he likes a place is something of an anomaly. Let's just say that he and I do not share the same criteria when it comes to restaurants. He seems to judge restaurants more on service and atmosphere than on the actual food. His whole night can be thrown upside down if there is a loud talker seated next to him. If he feels an injustice has been preformed against him by a member of the waitstaff, he will shut down and have a miserable time the rest of the night. Don't get me wrong, he is one of my best friends, and one of the best people that I know, but we usually just don't see eye to eye when it comes to restaurants. So, going into this restaurant, I knew that he had at least experienced great service, and he liked the food enough to recommend this restaurant for a meet up between us, and our other good friend Erven and his family.

Fuoco Pizzeria has been open for almost a year now. This place is run by second and third generation pizza makers from Italy. They are doing things the way that they do them in Italy. They had their pizza oven built near Naples, and then had it shipped over here. Fuoco in Italian means fire, and they get their oven cranked up to nearly 1000 degrees by using only wood. This creates a pizza that only takes 90 seconds to bake. When it comes to the ingredients that go into making the pizza, they are getting their major components imported from Italy as well. So you can count on having 00 Caputo flour and San Marzano tomatoes used on your pizza. The result is a lighter than usual pizza that has a slightly charred crust.

We got to Fuoco just after 6PM on a Saturday night. The restaurant was about half full, but there was definitely a steady stream of customers trickling in during our visit. The restaurant had a nice and comfortable openness to it. The high ceilings and nicely spaced tables account for that. The exposed brick walls help convey the history of this older building. The menu here is pretty straight forward. They offer salads, pizza of course, a couple of calzones, a few sandwiches, and dessert. There are 16 pizzas to choose from, and if you are not up on your Italian, it might take you some time to look through all of their descriptions, which are nicely described on the menu. We put in our order with our waiter, and waited for it to make its way out of the kitchen. This is how it all turned out for us.

Katie and I were the only ones to start out with a salad, but there was enough of this Spinaci Salad ($9) to share some with Erven. I am not usually one to order spinach salad in restaurants, but for some reason this one caught my eye. Joining the spinach in this salad was red onion, tomato, prosciutto bits, Gorgonzola, and a balsamic dressing. Okay, it was probably the crispy prosciutto bits that really caught my attention here, but this was a very good salad. The spinach was very fresh, dressed well, and was a great vehicle for the other components of the salad. There were plenty of prosciutto bits on this, and the Gorgonzola added a nice flavor boost. I would not shy away from this salad on future visits here.

Right after finishing our salad, the pizzas started to come out, which was good because we were with Erven's four kids, and they started getting a little restless. Up first is Katie's normal selection at a pizza place like this, the Bianca. This white pizza came with mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and is then topped with arugula and parmigiano. Katie really liked this pizza immensely. She liked the freshness of the pizza, and the crust had a nice smokiness that made this pizza unique.

When I am going to have pizza, I almost always get the pizza with the most meat on it. When I was looking at the menu, all of the pizzas at Fuoco only had one kind of meat on them. I grew a little worried. I was relieved to hear the waiter say that they had a pizza that he thought might be right up my alley. Not sure if this is a secret pizza, or maybe just a special on the night we were here, but the 4 Salumi Pizza ($18) would be my choice on this night. I believe the four meats on this pizza were prosciutto, salami, sausage, and a spicy salami. The pizzas here are 12 inches across, and do not come pre-sliced. They are meant to be eaten the Italian way, with a knife and fork. The pizza was pretty good for what it was. The meats were very authentic, the tomato sauce and cheese definitely did not overpower, and the crust held everything, but was a little soggy in the middle, which is to be expected with this kind of pizza.

Since I was at the end of the table, I did not really get to hear what the rest of our party of nine thought of their pizzas. I asked Erven later his thoughts of this pizza and the restaurant. He would come back for sure to Fuoco. He is a fan of this thin, wood fired, style of pizza. His kids on the other hand were not so excited by their pizza. This might not be the kind of pizza kids here are used to. It's a little different from the stuff they get at pool parties, pizza parlors and delivered to their houses.

After eating at Fuoco, and while writing this review, I have come to a conclusion. I am not really a fan of true Neopolitan pizza. I think I am more of a cheese and meat kind of guy. I can definitely appreciate how people would like this pizza though. The guys that run Fuoco are doing things the right way for the people that enjoy this kind of pizza. They are making pizzas the way they are made in Italy, not skimping on anything, and using authentic ingredients. For me, I want to know that I had pizza after eating one. I like the heaviness I feel after eating a New York style or deep dish pizza. That's just me though. That's what I grew up with, just like these guys grew up with this kind of pizza. Much like politics, religion, and sports loyalties, I am not going to try to convert whichever side of the pizza spectrum you happen to fall on. If you like Neopolitan pizza, I can almost assure you that you will enjoy Fuoco. If you had a great pizza while you were in Italy, and have not been able to find something close to it in OC, give this place a try. They are more expensive than the average pizza, but with all of the attention to detail that Fuoco is putting in, it might be worth it to you if you are into this style of pizza. Our server on this night was great. Robert had his hands full with us five adults and four kids, but he managed everything well. Glad that for once Clay and I could see eye to eye on a restaurant. There might be hope for us yet.

Out of five marshmallows, (because Fuoco means fire in Italian, and there's nothing like roasting marshmallows over an open fire), five being best to zero being worst, Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana gets 3 marshmallows.  

For more information about Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana, go to their website here:

Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

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