Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The Tasty: A Tale of Three Pizzas

Settebello, Las Vegas: Four Cheese? Yes, please!

The title of this post was suggested by one Matt's favorite movies, which is appropriate since the subject happens to be one of his favorite foods. In fact, Matt is so fond of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly that I had to promise to watch it with him when we got married (I made him watch A&E's 5-hour Pride and Prejudice in return!).  I'm ashamed to say that I've yet to fulfill this promise, but we have shared countless meals of this favorite food. It's amazing to me that no matter how many times you eat it, pizza almost never gets old.  We indulged in this favorite meal a few times in Las Vegas and this post is the story of our experience.

The Good:
My first Las Vegas pizza pie was a late-night dinner courtesy of Good2go New York Pizza By The Slice - a tiny eatery tucked into the dining plaza adjacent to Harrah's Hotel and Casino.  The restaurant shares a space with Panda Express, Chipotle and McDonalds, so the ambiance is a little lacking, but while this may not be the most upscale pedigree, the pizza is hot, fresh and delicious.  The crust is thin but sturdy, and the tomato sauce has a pleasant tang. In addition to a cheese slice of gargantuan proportions, I purchased a cheesy 'garlic knot' (at only 90 cents this is easily the cheapest treat on the Strip) and feasted for under $5! Sometimes a spendy splurge is in order, but if you can get the full flavor for a fraction of the price, why not?

Source: About.com

The Bad:
Still riding the high from my first LV pizza experience, Matt and frequented a local joint a few nights later. Convenience played a role in our choice, since Verona Pizza was just down the road from our hotel, but we checked it out on Yelp (a handful of decent reviews) and reasoned that it's pretty hard to mess up pizza. I guess we were wrong.  The pizza was fresh (we waited about 30 mins while they made it) but ultimately flavorless and rather unenjoyable.  The crust was spongy and the sauce so bland you could hardly taste it.  I hate giving harsh reviews, but I'm sad to say that this pizza earned one. I'm hoping our experience was a fluke, given the few positive reviews on Yelp, but somehow I'm not entirely convinced. Note the lack of a picture? Yeah, it was that bad.

The Tasty:
Thankfully there was still time to redeem our LV pizza-thon experience, and we found the perfect place to do it in Settebello. I found this location through some online sleuthing and, though it's a bit of a trek from the strip (located in The District at Green Valley Ranch - a swank shopping area in nearby Henderson), it's a worthwhile destination.

The restaurant serves true Napoli style pizza, as defined by the Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN) - an Italian organization whose charter requires the use of specific raw ingredients to regulate the quality and preserve the integrity of over 200 years of Neapolitan pizza-making tradition. Practically speaking, this means that Settebello flies ingredients in from Italy on a regular basis - flour from Naples, prosciutto from Parma, tomatoes from San Marzano.

It sounds silly, but you can taste the difference. The crust is thin and chewy, covered in deliciously scorched bits from the heat of a special brick oven so hot that it cooks the pizza in just over a minute. The tomatoes are tart and almost sour, with just a little added sweetness in the final sauce. I ordered the Quattro Formaggi and my only wish was that there had been just a bit more gorgonzola.  Judging from Matt's lip-licking concentration, he was equally satisfied with his Diavola - a pie topped with peppered salame, roasted red bell peppers, crushed red peppers and garlic.

The menu offers a huge range of classic toppings and some more exotic choices, including roasted fennel sausage, Calamata olives, toasted pine nuts, prosciutto, artichoke hearts and egg. With such a wealth of options, it might be worthwhile to do some research ahead of time - their website has a full menu, as well as information about their ingredients, locations (there's another in Salt Lake City) and history.

And there you have it - a Tale of Three Pizzas.  Like most cities, Las Vegas abounds with pizza joints. Hopefully our experiences will help you navigate the sea of choices so you can enjoy The Good, avoid The Bad and savor The Tasty.

Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

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