National Pizza Week is wrapping up across America, and in celebration of a week full of the best things in life–cheese, carbs, and tomatoes–I thought I’d let you in on a little secret. Punch Pizza. Ok, it’s not exactly a secret. Minnesotans have been promoting and patronizing this place for years and their nine locations across the state are always busy. But for me, a Wisconsinite, Punch Pizza was a burst of warmth in an otherwise very cold weekend. It’s also the sole reason I relented and told my brother I had seen enough, and yes he should apply to University of Minnesota over Madison (that wasn’t easy to say, by the way).
John Serrano, mastermind of the restaurant, grew up in Italy and based Punch on memories of eating pizza with friends after school and talking for hours with the pizzaioli. It sounded legit, so we decided to give it a shot. From the outside, Punch is a bright, citrus colored restaurant that doesn’t look like anything in Naples. Then you step in and see the giant wood-burning oven and smell the fresh tang of juicy tomatoes, and you’re transported.
Vera Pizza Napoletana is an elite organization, sometimes called the pizza polizia, that maintains rules to ensure the authenticity of Neapolitan pizza. If anyone is going to become part of the organization, their dough must be rolled out and shaped by hand, and they must use wood-burning, bell-shaped brick ovens, among other things. Punch Pizza is part of V.P.N. and also uses San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
The result is the best pizza I’ve had since Naples, and to be completely honest, I’m not sure if I could distinguish between the two. Maybe if they were side-by-side I could tell a slight superiority in my favorite Naples pizzeria, but it would be close. Trust me, I’ve been searching for good Italian pizza since moving back to the states. I’ve become unbearable to my family when we go out to eat. From Wisconsin to New York, I wasn’t completely satisfied. Until Minnesota, of all places, where I was least expecting it. I order the classic Margherita D.O.C, with fragrant basil, fresh mozzarella, and crushed tomatoes from Campagna, but there are plenty of options.
Happy National Pizza Week! Take advantage and eat at your favorite pizza place today — tell me about it in the comments, or on facebook.
And for more fun reading about pizza styles and the search for the perfect crust, check out American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza. Great recipes too!