Pizza, to use a modern phrase, is trending. Wood-fired, gas-oven, deep-dish, Neapolitan, thin-crust, Sicilian, New York. Think of a pizza style, from Connecticut to California, and you’ll find a sample of it at a Sacramento restaurant.
Marvin Maldonado, local restaurateur, has two different pizza spots focusing on two completely different styles. Federalist Public House features Neapolitan thin-crust pizza fired in the Federalist’s potent wood oven.
His new East Sacramento outlet, The Neighborhood Pizzeria, features a style with a plethora of regional names. Some call it “Detroit-style,” others call it “Sicilian.” You’ll even hear it referred to as “Grandma” pizza every now and then. This Motor City/Mediterranean/maternal treat features deep, focaccia-like crust topped with cheese, then sauce and then a wide array of ingredients. Most notable might be that this style is cooked in rectangular pans and served by the square.
These two pizza styles, the Neapolitan at Federalist and the Grandma pie at Neighborhood couldn’t be more different. The same can also be said for the restaurants’ atmospheres.
Opened in April, The Neighborhood Pizzeria sits snugly and casually on H Street, looking more like a residence than a neighborhood pizza spot. The homey exterior belies a modern, minimal interior and a delightfully inviting patio. It’s an order-at-the-counter place where your table number might be written on a vintage baseball card. This and other cheeky elements give the place that touch of fun that tells you the minimalist space is more blank canvas than serious artistic expression.
While the pizzeria features the Detroit/Sicilian-style square pies, you’ll also find round pies offered with a modified, but still satisfyingly, puffy and gorgeously crispy crust. The standard Detroit/Sicilian pizza, as mentioned above, has a crust influenced by the best Italian focaccia. The flavor, chew and fluffiness of the crust makes these pies stand out. And the doughy beauty is only heightened by the cheesy, crispy exterior.
The “Abuelita” (Spanish for grandmother) is a square slice with just the basics: mozzarella, oregano, tomato sauce, basil and parmesan. The “Fresh Prince” (a sly reference to Prince Street Pizza, a New York pizzeria that specializes in the Sicilian style) goes for the simple American combo of pepperoni and cheese. At $4 and $5 a slice, respectively, it’s a filling treat for a solid price.
Being in the pizza and beer business has its perks, Maldonado told me. One of those perks is getting to go on research trips to places like Italy and New York. While on a recent trip he and his wife fell in love with the beers coming out of Brooklyn Brewery. Their flagship Brooklyn Lager is a staple at bars and restaurants up and down the Eastern Seaboard, but doesn’t make it out to California much.
Fortunately for Maldonado, a western push in distribution for Brooklyn Brewery lined up with the opening of his new restaurant. So now Brooklyn Brewery beers are, for lack of a better description, the official beers of the neighborhood pizzeria. You’ll find several on tap at any time, and plenty of bottles and cans to go.
Federalist Public House is one of the more innovative spaces in town. Maldonado’s background in architecture came into play to create a space that utilizes a series of shipping containers as its frame. It works as an indoor/outdoor space built for the long Sacramento summers and briefer winters. The restaurant focuses on craft beer, wood-fired pizza and bocce ball. The faux grass bocce court attached to the informal dining room acts as a magnet for casual and competitive bocce players.
The beer lineup features a tap list of mostly local brews with a heavy consideration for the season and the number on the thermometer.
The pizza oven steals the show, however, putting out thin-crust Neapolitan pies that range from traditional to inventive. On the traditional end, the “Formaggio” hits the spot with a simple combination of crushed tomato, cheese, oregano and olive oil. The tender, fire-kissed crust pulls just enough when offering that first bite. Its flavor shows smart decisions in dough making and flour sourcing.
On the innovative side, the “Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy” features ingredients more frequently found in a Cubano sandwich: roast pork, ham and pickles. The clever pizza doesn’t pull punches with a heavy dusting of fresh dill and “Cubano sauce.” The unapologetic flavors really sing. You might not pick this one off the menu at first glance, but it’s definitely worth a second look.
Whether you’re a fan of a big slice or small slice, deep dish or thin crust, red sauce or white sauce, you’ll find pizza to your liking at these two pizzerias. If variety be the spice of life, eat on!
The Neighborhood Pizzeria is at 5401 H St.; (916) 706-2561; theneighborhoodpizzeria.com.
Federalist Public House is at 2009 Matsui Alley (20th and N); (916) 661-6134; federalistpublichouse.com.
Greg Sabin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.