Unlike most American kids, I didn’t grow up eating pizza. Once in a blue moon, my mom would take a whack at making pizza-from-a-box at home, to which she added her own gourmet flair: slices of orange American cheese. But it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I tried restaurant pizza and immediately fell in love with pies from Cassano’s Pizza King in Dayton, Ohio, where each pizza, as I recall, was cut into bite-size squares rather than slices.
Well, over the years I’ve made up for lost time. Indeed, I’ve become somewhat of a pizza snob. I’ve written plenty in City Weekly about my favorite pizzas and pizza styles. I love the pizzas that emerge from coal and wood-fired ovens at places like John’s and Arturo’s in New York City and Pepe’s in New Haven. But I also enjoy thick Chicago-style pizzas at Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due when I’m in the Windy City. And I take pleasure in the post-modern West Coast pizzas from Wolfgang Puck and California Pizza Kitchen. Still, my favorite pizzas are the simple, minimalist pizzas of Naples called Margherita.
But there’s another class of pizza that I am passionate about, and it’s one that has been impossible to come by here in Zion—until recently. I’m talking about the pizza that you purchase (mostly) by the slice, on the run, at small hole-in-the-wall pizzerias all over New York City. These joints appear on just about every second or third block from the tip of Staten Island to the top of the Bronx, from Queens and Brooklyn to Manhattan’s west side. I’ve eaten in dozens of these places, and can’t remember the name of a single one. They’re mostly nondescript, with little ambience, but serve classic versions of what I call New York street pizza. I practically lived on this stuff while on a grad student income in New York; at that time, most of the pizzerias sold pizza for 75 cents per slice. And a slice was plenty of food for lunch; two slices made a nice dinner.
Christmas came early for me this year. I was able—thanks to recommendations from all-knowing City Weekly readers—to find not one but two joints here in Utah serving up pizzas that take me right back to the street of NYC. A reader named Lynne wrote to tell me a while back about a place in Draper called Nevole’s. Here’s what she said about their pizza: “I usually order my pies to go and eat them at home, except for the first slice eaten in the parking lot. Watch out for that orange grease running down to your elbow!” It was that bit about the orange grease that really caught my attention. Two of the telltale signs that you’ve come upon good New York street pizza is the orange grease that separates from the mozzarella cheese and the mouth burns you suffer from being impatient and attempting to eat a slice while it’s still steaming hot.
Nevole’s is a family name of Randy Will, a native New Yorker. You might recognize the name: Randy was the skeleton coach for Olympic Gold Medalist Jim Shea. How Randy wound up opening a pizza joint in Draper is a story we don’t have room for, but stop by Nevole’s, and he’ll be happy to chat about it.
His pizza is certainly gold-medal quality. My very first bite told me that this was the right stuff. Like all good New York street pizza, Nevole’s fare is fairly simple. That’s what makes it so difficult to get right—it’s all about the crust, the sauce and the cheese. Nevole’s pizza has a thin crust, no thicker than the plastic place mat on your dining-room table. The sauce (or mutz, as it’s called in New York) is a Nevole family recipe, rich and very good (although I’d prefer just a tad less of it). But the key to the sensational pizza at Nevole’s is that Randy uses mozzarella cheese called Grande, which is more expensive but also imparts a unique flavor that lesser, cheaper mozzarella doesn’t.
Nevole’s serves a variety of pies, including Hawaiian, barbecue chicken, veggie and a broccoli and meatball pizza called Lori’s Love. The best of the bunch is The New Yorker ($12.99), a simple cheese pizza made with that fabulous Grande cheese. All pizzas at Nevole’s are the same size: 18 inches across. Friendly servers like Stacy and beers on tap make the Nevole’s experience an especially happy one.
At the other end of the Wasatch Front, in Clearfield, I found another example of terrific New York street pizza at Tommy Angelo’s. Tommy is a young, hard-working kid who recently took over the pizzeria from his family, who moved back East. A reader named Ken wrote to me, “There isn’t any pizza place in Utah that can hold a candle to this place.” And except for Nevole’s, he may be right. Tommy Angelo’s crust is perhaps 1/32 of an inch thinner than at Nevole’s. But I prefer Tommy’s sauce slightly, and his pizza is as perfect an example of New York street pizza as I’m come across west of the Hudson River. There’s beer on tap at Tommy Angelo’s, too, and an 18-inch pizza costs $14.95.
So my Christmas wishes have already been granted. I plan to leave Santa a couple of pizza slices from Nevole’s and Tommy Angelo’s to help him get through his busy night next week.
NEVOLE’S PIZZA 51 E. 11400 South Draper 571-5744 Lunch & dinner Monday-Saturday TOMMY ANGELO’S 377 S. State, Ste. A Clearfield 801-773-5212 Lunch & dinner Tuesday-Saturday