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Napoli Pizzeria in Squirrel Hill keeps 'em coming back for more

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Picking up a pizza in Squirrel Hill isn't as easy as it would seem. There are six pizzerias to choose from in the Forbes-Murray-Forward business district, each with its claim to fame and dedicated clientele.

Mineo's and Aiello's, in particular, inspire fierce loyalty -- you must love one and hate the other, no middle ground. It's a question that splits close-knit families apart at dinnertime.

Preferences seem to go beyond pizza and into labyrinthine tribal customs of East End lifers -- hinging on, for instance, where your Little League team went after games.

Yet, for even the fiercest of Mineo's partisans -- myself included -- there are times when the dense, viscous, paper plate-dissolving cheesy mess of Mineo's is just too much.

Luckily, there's Napoli Pizzeria.

Napoli's is classic, just-right pizza. It's perfectly balanced thin-crust Neapolitan pie -- not too doughy, yet not too flimsy to support lots of toppings. Walk in, and you can see whatever's fresh, sitting in the display case -- and it's guaranteed nothing has been sitting there for long.

"I don't know; they're all very good, that's why they survive," insists Napoli's owner Jack Bruni, who doesn't seem too stressed out by his oversupply of competition.

He knows that loyalty has been his pizza place's saving grace.

"There's a lot of people who grew up here, and when they're in town, they all come by. There's a lot of college grads from Carnegie Mellon and Pitt, who come back."

Bruni describes Napoli's pizza as "More like a New York-style of pizza. A little bit thinner, not too thick. We use real good ingredients -- that's why we've been here so long."

His favorite pie is the white pizza, with spinach and crushed tomato.

But it's not all pizza, all the time. Napoli has about 20 different hoagies -- all the basics, from eggplant ($8.75) to meatball ($8.25), to veal parmesan ($8.75).

"We also make dinners, like spaghetti, rigatoni, homemade lasagna, which is very good," Bruni adds.

In the afternoon, nothing does as well as pizza by the slice.

"We have a lot of contractors (in Squirrel Hill), working people that just want a couple of slices of pizza," Bruni says. "We have some fantastic customers -- a lot of repeat customers that have been coming for a long time. The clientele is really nice, and we appreciate that."

Additional Information:

Napoli Pizzeria

Location: 2006 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Cash only.

Details: 412-521-1744

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