It was the authentic Neapolitan pizza I went for, but it was the spaghetti carbonara ($16) that I loved and dreamed about for days afterward. A large, glorious bowl of pasta, eggs, pancetta, Parmesan and olive oil in perfect harmony. It sat before me like a golden nest, velvety but not runny, the sauce adhering to the fork as I twisted and spun the noodles around a spoon. No cream in the sauce, just raw eggs cooked by the hot pasta.
According to Costas Eleftheriadis, owner of Napoletana Pizzeria in Mountain View, all the recipes he uses are from his grandmother in Naples. Nonna was a great cook.
Carbonara has been fancified since its humble origins. Alan Davidson in "The Oxford Companion to Food" suggests that spaghetti alla carbonara was created in Rome in 1944 with American occupation troops sharing their abundant rations of eggs and bacon with local chefs. Naples isn't Rome, but the way Napoletana makes it, it's about the best carbonara I've had either here or in Italy.
The fettuccine alla Bolognese ($18), made with minced beef and tomato sauce, was also delicious, with an abundance of meat and not overly sauced. In Italy, ragù alla Bolognese dresses the pasta, not drowns it. The kitchen at Napoletana struck the right balance. The sauce was made with Italian plum tomatoes, garlic, carrots, onion and celery, and was modestly seasoned and abundantly delicious.
Napoletana is famed for its authentic Neapolitan pizza. Eleftheriadis earned his VPN certification in 2010 from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, an international organization established in 1984 to cultivate the culinary art of Neapolitan pizza. The organization offers classes, workshops and training. It's not like earning an MBA in pizza-making, but the Associazione teaches methods and techniques and has specifications to maintain the best Neapolitan standards.
One VPN requisite is a wood-fired dome oven that maintains a temperature of at least 900 F. Pizzas are fully baked in 60 to 90 seconds. Fortuitously, Eleftheriadis found a spot that had an existing wood-fired oven when he opened in 2011. The small space, adjacent to Cost Plus in a strip mall, had housed a hodgepodge of restaurants over the years and the oven had been idle for some time. He uses a combination of walnut, almond and oak hardwoods in his oven.
"They burn hotter, with no smoke, and maintain a nice even heat," Eleftheriadis said.
Eleftheriadis only uses flour, water, salt and natural yeast to make his pizza dough. The wheat flour, type "00" or doppio zero, is imported from Italy. It's lower in protein and gluten than American flours, mellower, more supple and easier to shape. The resulting pizza crusts are light, airy and have a crisp snap, with just a slight blistering around the edges.
Eleftheriadis changed careers when the company he worked for as a pilot and flight instructor consolidated local operations in Connecticut. He became interested in pizza-making while visiting family in Naples.
All the pizza varieties Eleftheriadis makes are combinations found in Naples -- no pepperoni, no bacon-stuffed crusts and no pineapple.
The Napoletana pizza ($18) came topped with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, a generous amount of homemade Italian sausage, basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil. It was my personal favorite, though Eleftheriadis says the Margherita is his best seller.
The Napoletana looked as good as it tasted, with succulent slices, luxuriously layered, slightly aromatic and a slight tang to the crust and hint of spiciness in the sausage. The thin pizza cooled down within a minute or two and was easy to handle without utensils.
The bianca al prosciutto ($17) was covered with fresh mozzarella and garlic and topped with sweet Parma prosciutto curls and crisp, peppery arugula.
Napoletana seats just over 40, so arriving early is advisable. The restaurant doesn't deliver, but it does offer take-out. Besides pizza and pasta, there is a small selection of soups, salads, antipasti and a dozen reasonably priced wines and beers.
I was fascinated by the dessert menu's eight options, all frozen and imported from Italy. Not only were the desserts tasty, the presentation was high-quality. The limoncello tartufo ($6) with lemon gelato and a frozen limoncello core came covered with meringue sprinkles. It was zesty, clean and vibrant, a yellowy dome of creamy delight.
Coppa mascarpone ($7) was luscious chocolate cream layered with silky mascarpone, and topped with crunchy amaretto cookie crumbs and tiny chocolate curls.
Napoletana is a small restaurant with a justifiably large reputation. Eleftheriadis has been unwavering in his adherence to Neapolitan standards. That's been good for him and good for us.
1910 West El Camino Real, Suite C, Mountain View
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.
Credit cards: yes
Parking: strip mall lot
Alcohol: beer and wine
Happy hour: no
Outdoor dining: no
Noise level: moderate
Bathroom cleanliness: very good