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Stone Neapolitan Pizzeria has location plus taste

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:36 p.m.
Neapolitan Stone Pizzeria a casual, laid back, contemporary pizzeria brings wood-fired pizza to the Downtown area, Monday, January 14, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Neapolitan Stone Pizzeria a casual, laid back, contemporary pizzeria, brings wood-fired pizza to the Downtown area, Monday, January 14, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

Those in search of a fast meal Downtown need look no further than Stone Neapolitan Pizzeria at River Vue.

It's hard to beat the blazing track record of a wood-fired pizza.

The thin-crust pizzas spend only 90 seconds in the oven and generally progress from counter order to table delivery in under 5 minutes, says owner Rick Werner.

South Hills resident Werner, a former supply-chain-management consultant, opened Stone Neapolitan Pizzeria on Oct. 1 in a glass-fronted space on the lobby level of River Vue Apartments, the former State Office Building, Downtown.

“I could have done (it in) the suburbs,” he says. “But not too many people are familiar with wood-fired ovens. I'm getting a wide spectrum of clientele in the city.”

He also was attracted to the location by its proximity to the residents in the building's 200-plus apartments, who were just an elevator ride away, as well as those in nearby apartment buildings.

“That gave me evening business as well,” he says.

Werner has never been to Italy or Naples, but he had fallen in love with authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas and was willing to go the extra miles necessary to create them here.

He traveled to California and Colorado to learn the proper way to make a pizza. He bought a traditional brick oven and stocked up on oak and cherry hardwoods to produce the necessary 1,000-degree baking temperature. He gets his flour and some cheeses from Italy. He makes his dough daily.

Bread is baked on premises.

“We have no freezers. Everything has to be fresh.”

Service is casual but swift and welcoming. You order and pay at the counter, then take a seat.

The small, thin-crusted Margherita Extra pies ($9.25) arrive quickly on a metal tray, with a nice blistered and blackened border outlining the circle of red sauce, mozzarella di buffalo cheese and leaves of fresh basil. Ours was a nice blend of chewy and crisp bits with a balance of sauce and cheese in which neither overwhelmed.

The four slices would be sufficient for two to snack on or substantial enough for a meal if combined with two small salads ($7 each).

The menu offers a selection of seven house pies from basic Margherita ($6.35) to Vesuvius and Prosciutto e Funghi ($10.25) that adds on the appropriate adornments of meat and mushrooms.

You also can have it exactly your way by beginning with a plain Marinara, Margherita or Bianca pie ($5.25-$6.35) and making choices of oil and toppings for extra charges ($1-$3).

“The creating your own aspect is a popular feature,” Werner says. “Customers get more of a connection with their purchase.”

Also available is a selection of a half-dozen submarine-style sandwiches ($5.99-$6.99) served on oven-warmed rolls with melted mozzarella or provolone. We liked the Torino ($6.99) filled with prosciutto, salami and capicola.

The food may be fast. But the ambiance is laid-back. The view through the big glass windows, the colorful graphic on the wall and the firewood drying out on racks along the wall give a sense of place.

There are seats for 48 indoors and another 36 outside when the weather is accommodating. Despite the hard-surfaced tables, floors and walls, no one rushes you to move on.

Those who want to linger might do so over a beer or a glass of wine. Werner stocks 17 varieties of beer that range from $2.50 to $5. Wine is $7 a glass. That should drop to $6 for the house red or white, once Werner finds a dealer who can supply him with kegs that he can connect to taps.

There's also a selection of Italian sodas ($2) and fountain beverages ($1.65).

The beer and wine selections have proved popular with evening diners.

“A lot of customers like wine with their pizza. They go hand in hand,” Werner says.

Stone Neapolitan Pizzeria at River Vue, 300 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Details: 412-904-4531 or www.stonepizzeria.com

Alice T. Carter is a features writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.

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