Nestled in the corner, Napoletana takes the place of Cafe Mazeh, replacing pita with pizza but maintaining the homey, restful atmosphere. Never mind the energetic self-improvement going on the neighboring Bikram Yoga, Beauty Unlimited and Little Gym.
In Napoletana, the previous cafe's mural of a fantasy San Francisco takes up one wall. A pile of Caputo flour sacks sits over by the brains of the operation, Costas (the name he prefers) and his wood-fired oven.
Caputo pizza flour has a low ash content and a fine, silky texture. In very high-heat ovens like Costas has, it produces the classic Neapolitan crust: thin yet soft, crispy yet chewy, slightly charred. He is certified under the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana. VPN, says its website, "safeguards and promotes the culture of the real Neapolitan pizza worldwide."
What else makes it real? The 12-inch pies are baked for only 60 to 90 seconds at 850 to 900 degrees, which puffs them up. After baking them, Costas sprinkles on a bit of olive oil. The only drawback is that if you get pizza to go, it deflates. (Again, note the importance of living nearby or staying there to eat.)
Napoletana offers nine pizzas, running $11 to $15. Always a good test, the Margherita is an Italian flag of sweet tomato sauce, bubbling white house-made mozzarella cheese and deep green leaves of fresh basil. On the Napoletana, add crumbly, tasty — but not tongue-burning or fatty — house-made sausage.
Other combinations offer Italian ham, artichoke hearts, black olives, smoked mozzarella, Gorgonzola, ricotta, garlic, mushrooms and rapini.
Appetizers include the obligatory fried calamari ($12) and a caprese salad ($11), a good-for-sharing platter of thick and creamy house-made mozzarella slabs interspersed with large basil leaves and quarter-inch slices of tomato, on a bed of arugula drizzled in olive oil dressing, with real Parmesan shredded on top. One major problem: out-of-season tomatoes.
There's also a green salad, a Caesar and a tricolor (arugula, Belgian endive, radicchio). Add $4 for grilled chicken.
The recent soup of the day ($6) sang with silky asparagus and a lemony lilt among diced chicken, carrots and celery. Soup also features on the children's menu ($6), and a child's-eye view of pasta.
The entree menu is a lineup of pasta all-stars: penne with vodka sauce, fettuccine with minced beef and tomato sauce, rigatoni with Italian sausage, capellini with tomato. Linguine comes with four light meatballs. If you like spicy, you may find these dull, but I appreciated the freshness.
Spaghetti carbonara also is refreshingly light, flaked with a generous amount of pancetta that stays moist with crisp edges.
Desserts come from Italy. Bravo for the creamy tiramisu and Illy coffee.
The short, all-Italian wine list offers three whites and four reds, bottles from $20 to $34, glasses $7 to $13. Get a bottle. Also there are three styles of Italian beer, and Stella Artois ($5).
Open just a few months, Napoletana has been discovered. On a Tuesday night, it's comfortably full of families, couples and a large party of friends and colleagues. Some must live nearby. Lucky them.
1910 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View
Hours: Mon. 5-9 p.m.; Tue.-Thu. 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-10 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9 p.m.
Credit cards: yes
Alcohol: beer and wine
Outdoor dining: no
Party and banquet facilities: no
Noise level: fine
Wheelchair access: yes
Bathroom cleanliness: excellent