Take your choice: airport security and a 12-hour flight to Naples or a 15-minute drive to Danbury from North Salem in your own car. If you are looking for the best pizza this side of the Tyrrhenian Sea, give Stanziatos try.
"I haven't tasted pizza with this unique smoky flavor since I was a little girl growing up in Brooklyn, said Jeanne Pitta, 77, of North Salem.
Located in a modest strip mall just five miles from the state line, Stanziatos is still a comparatively well-kept secret. Owner Matthew Stanczak attended the Culinary Institute of America and worked for several years as a private chef. Then he ate my way through Italy and studied pizza-making at its Neapolitan source.
For his own pizzeria, Stanczak went to the trouble and expense of importing a genuine Italian wood-burning tile stove. It reaches temperatures of over 800 degrees. The intense heat allows the dough to spring. The end result is crust that is crunchy but airy on the inside. Char from the fire adds a smoky element. A pizza cooks in about four minutes. He fuels the stove with local seasoned hardwoods: maple, hickory, oak, ash and cherry.
Stanczak uses only fresh products from local farms and his imported Neapolitan stone-ground flour is not bleached, enriched or bromated. This may all contribute to the excellence of the final product.
Making wood-fired pizzas is an art. The fire and the hot spots in the oven are constantly changing. The fire needs stoking every ten minutes," he said. Im not flipping a switch to cook. I actually cook with fire. We really care about every pizza and it shows.
Most of his clientele ends up there through word-of-mouth. Stanziatos sells lots of take-out but there are a dozen tables in the dining area and the service is excellent. Pizza is only made in the individual size and is never available by the slice.
Other items on the menu include salads, wood-fired wings, pastas, sandwiches at lunchtime and desserts, featuring Mr. Shanes ice cream. Everything is delicious -- but the pizza is unique. Many toppings are available, including mushrooms, zucchini and ricotta, and sopresatta, imported from Arthur Avenue. Beer, wine and soft drinks are also on the menu.
The restaurant is located at 35 Lake Avenue Extension, Danbury, CT (203-885-1057). It is open weekdays for lunch and dinner, Saturdays for dinner only. Closed Sundays.