Marc Sgrizzi, alternatively known as Marc Ritz, is a good ol’ boy Italian chef from upstate New York. He’s an ex-boxer, but today, burrata cheese, and one of the most innovative culinary minds in the city, delivers his uppercuts. Perhaps know him from a place called Marc’s World Cuisine, which closed several years ago. Now you can taste his creations at Parma, a crackerjack Northside restaurant.
Sgrizzi is finally doing pizza, and it’s terrific. His newest venture, Novecento 900, is a place with franchise written all over it. Imagine Settebello, at half the price. Sgrizzi’s new place does VPN, verra pizza Napoletana, or real Neapolitan pizzas, starting at $7.50 for a basic Margherita or Pomodoro. He wants to serve 500 pizzas a day in his new place, hard by an In N’ Out Burger in a Centennial Parkway shopping mall. Don’t bet against it.
This is a modestly decorated place, just one notch more charming than a cafeteria. You stand in a line and order. Pizzas cook in 90 seconds in a wood fired oven, and yes, that pile of various hardwoods, apricot, pecan and apple, that you dodge by the front door so you can enter the line, is what gives them their distinctive smoky character.
What you’ll get is one of those blistered, thin crusted pizzas that you pull apart. When it is made perfectly, there might be a drop of moisture in the center. I tried two pizzas here and both were excellent. One was the Calabrese, a specialty pizza that sells for $10. I’d drive back here from Green Valley, 25 miles, just to eat a second one.
The Calabrese is essentially a Margherita with hot pepper mix topping, blanketed with spicy Calabrian salami, that crisps quickly and curls around the edges in the oven. This pizza soars because of top drawer components. High gluten flour. A delicious marinara. Whole milk mozzarella. Fresh basil. Can you get one with a gluten-free crust? Sure. But who wants one!
The second pizza (pictured) was more traditional, topped with sausage and pepperoni. The one difference here is that Sgrizzi makes his own sausage over at Parma, his other restaurant, so it’s much tastier than a commercial brand. I also sampled his housemade all-beef meat ball. Mamma Mia, azza spicy a-meat-a-ball.
There are several good salads to get you started here. The Chopped salad probably gets the top marks, Romaine lettuce, Genoa salami, Gorgonzola cheese, roasted red peppers, red onions, and red wine vinaigrette. But I like the Arugula, with mushrooms and olives, and the Caesar is done in the classical style, with fat croutons. A small one is only $4.
I didn’t try a calzone or Stromboli, but both are also done in the wood oven. I did save room for one of Sgrizzi’s irresistible homemade cannoli, which come studded with bits of chocolate. And I eyeballed another house specialty, eggplant Parmesan, that he brings from Parma, to be finished off in his wood oven here.
Novecento 9000 offers beer, various Italian wines, and a coffee bar as well. Sgrizzi will be opening for breakfast soon as well. He envisions this place as a coffee bar, before it morphs into a pizza joint. Look for Italian pastries to fill out this menu soon.
I’m betting franchise. Damn, I wish I lived a few miles closer to this place. Novecento 900 is at 5705 Centennial Center Blvd. Call 685-4900 for hours and information, or go to their website, www.novecentopizza.com.
editor’s note: I went to Novecento after reading this. 2 pizzas, wine and a drink were $24. My choice? Chicken with pesto, pine nuts and arugula. The best way to eat this pizza is by tearing it- you get that warm chewy gluten with incredible flavor in each bite. Itching to go back.
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