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Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Amore Neopolitan Pizzeria

Naples, Italy leaves nothing to chance, boasting of more than fifty official patron saints. Among the more well-known of the beatified intercessors to whom Neapolitan citizens petition are Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Mary Magdalene, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Pascal Baylon (San Pasqual, if you will). This litany of saints is among the who’s who among Catholic saints. You might think one of these sanctified patrons would also serve as the official “mascot” of Naples, but that sacrosanct honor is reserved for someone almost antithetical to the saints.

The official mascot of the city of Naples is a harlequin clown named Pulcinella. Perpetually hungry and nearly destitute, Pulcinella earned a reputation as a bungler with a rare joie d’ vivre, requiring only a slice of pizza and a jug of wine to make him happy. The character Pulcinella originated in a 17th century puppetry play. He is characterized by a long, hooked nose which he turns up at authority figures. Attired in white, up to and including his hat, Pulcinella is the embodiment of the street wise, crafty guy. In Naples, nicknacks representing this beloved Neapolitan character can be found virtually everywhere.

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The high heat oven in which pizza is prepared

It’s only fitting that a depiction of the official mascot of Naples adorns the wall of one dining room of Amore Neapolitan Pizza, the Duke City’s sole purveyor of Neapolitan style pizza. Pulcinella is depicted with a jug of wine on one hand and an entire pizza on the other with his mandolin resting against his leg. The pizza has been personalized for his New Mexican home as green chile is laid out on the pizza in the shape of the Land of Enchantment’s Zia sun. In the background, as in the state flag, red rays spread out against a field of yellow.

Amore—yes, that’s Amore as in “when the moon hits your eye like a big-a pizza pie”—is located on the fringes of Nob Hill in the space formerly occupied by the very popular Bailey’s on the Beach which closed in May, 2013. Pulcinella himself may have picked the colors for the sun-shielding canopies on the rooftop patio, one of the Duke City’s favorite venues for watching an enchanted sunset. The cynosure of the front dining room is a red-tiled Ferraro clay oven imported from Italy. The oven is the high-heat catalyst in which some of the city’s most perfect and pulchritudinous pizzas are baked.

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Pulcinetta, the official mascot of Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria

High heat—905 degrees hot–is one of the secrets to perfect Neapolitan pizzas. When a pie goes into the wood-burning oven, it doesn’t stay there for very long. Your pie will be ready in sixty to ninety seconds. It does help that the genuine Neapolitan dough, sourced directly from Italy, is hand-formed to the supermodel thinness of slightly more than one-eighth of an inch. The high heat renders the crust crispy, but not overly so. The cornicione, an Italian term for the “lip” or puffy outer edge of the pizza is soft and chewy. Best of all, the pizza has the flavor and aroma of just baked bread.

Amore doesn’t scrimp on ingredients. They’re of exceedingly high quality with an emphasis on sourcing locally wherever possible. That doesn’t apply to the canned tomatoes which, like the flour, are imported from Italy. The tomato sauce for each pizza is made from those canned tomatoes. It makes a difference. So does the house-made, hand-stretched mozzarella which is placed strategically on the pie. There’s neither too much or too little of the mozzarella on pies which call for it.

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Burrata (Available Fri, Sat, Sun)

Outstanding ingredients, however, are wasted if the pizzaioli don’t know what to do with them. Owners Gabriel and Kimberly Amador lived in Naples where they consumed their share of Neapolitan style pizzas. When they decided to open a pizzeria which would showcase the pizza style with which they fell in love, they sought out and were trained and certified by Robert Caporuscio, President of the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani (APN). APN certification, which can be obtained only in Naples or New York City, is the highest certification for pizza chefs in Italy.

15 August 2015: In the two years (2013 – 2015) between visits, we gleefully noted just how much the menu had expanded from sixteen wood-fired pizzas, three of which—Zia “The New Mexico Pizza”, il Duke “Duke City Style” and Diavola “New Mexican-Style Spicy Salami”— include a beloved local ingredient you won’t find in Naples, but which many New Mexico natives consider their pizzas to be naked without. Those ingredients are red and green chile. The menu includes eight “specialty” pizzas, three of which are named for Caporuscio.  Undoubtedly by popular demand, there are now six “New Mexico Style” pizzas.  For traditionalists who can’t have pizza without tomato sauce, the menu lists ten Pizza Rosse (tomato sauce) pies.  The menu also includes calzones, lunch specials and so much more.

Pizza Sushi

Pizza Sushi

31 August 2013:  Before you get to the pizza, there’s antipasti on which to nosh. The antipasti menu lists only four items, including a “pizza sushi” which honors Amore’s predecessor by nestling Bailey’s blackened mahi in a pizza roll topped with fresh apple-papaya slaw. The pizza sushi more closely resembles a blackened mahi egg roll sliced diagonally, but by any name, it would be delicious.  The blackening spices used on the mahi give it the type of piquant bite New Mexicans love.

27 July 2013:  If you visit on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you’ll want to indulge in the Burrata, described on the menu as “fresh, house-made mozzarella filled with soft cheese.” Burrata is typically far more creamy, rich and soft than the version served at Amore. As a mozzarella goes, Amore’s version is very good, but as a burrata, it’s not quite there.

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Zia “The New Mexico Pizza”

27 July 2013: The Zia “The New Mexico Pizza”, on the other hand, is one of the very best pizzas I’ve had in the Land of Enchantment. It’s constructed with a white cream sauce, house-made mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, corn and New Mexico green chile. The green chile doesn’t hold back on flavor or piquancy. It’s sourced from an organic chile farm in the Socorro area and it’s pure delicious dynamite. Corn niblets lend elements of sweetness and freshness while the white cream sauce proves a worthy alternative to the fabulous tomato sauce. The crust, especially the cornicione, is an absolute delight. It’s bread as good as you’ll find at any bakery, so good you could eat an entire pizza sans ingredients. 

31 August 2013: Because “red or green” is the official state question of the great state of New Mexico, it’s apropos that the pizza menu include a pizza incorporating red chile, too.  That would be the Diavola, sub-titled “New Mexican-Style Spicy Salami.”  Diavala, an Italian term for female devil, is apropos, too.  In addition to spicy salami, the tomato sauce is tinged with red chile and topped with house-made Mozzarella, Pecorino Romano and olio.  The red chile and spicy salami combination won’t water your eyes, but you will feel a pleasant warmth on the back of your throat.  The Mozzarella and Pecorino Romano pairing is genius, a perfect foil for the heat of the red chile and spic salami.

Diavola “New Mexican-Style Spicy Salami” Tomato sauce, house-made mozzarella, salami, pecorino romano, red chile, olio

Diavola “New Mexican-Style Spicy Salami”

27 July 2013: The pizza crust is a perfect canvas for some of the best ingredient combinations you can find. My play-it-safe bride’s pizza, the Capricciosa “An Italian Classic” showcased tomato sauce, house-made mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, artichokes, mushrooms, Italian cooked ham, olives, basil and olio. There’s an interplay of several flavors in each bite, but the difference makers are the tomato sauce, house-made mozzarella and that wondrous pizza crust. If all bread tasted as good, I’d weigh 400 pounds. 

31 August 2013:  No Neapolitan-style pizzeria could be complete without featuring the pizza that started it all.  That would be the the Margherita, first crafted in 1889 when an Italian pizzaiolo created a pizza reflecting the colors of the Italian Sabauda flag and named it for his queen.  More than a century and a quarter later, it is widely acknowledged that the red (marinara sauce), white (white mozzarella cheese) and green (fresh basil) pizza crafted that fateful day is the progenitor of every pizza crafted ever since. Amore’s rendition does great honor to the progenitor of all pizzas.  To call it “plain” would be to undervalue a great, great pizza.

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Capricciosa “An Italian Classic”

14 August 2015: Less than a decade ago, burrata was virtually unavailable in restaurants throughout the Land of Enchantment.  My friend Sandy Driscoll would tell me about this rich, buttery cheese she enjoyed in restaurants throughout the Los Angeles area.  We often thought of ordering it and having it shipped to us, but this is a cheese that’s meant to be consumed while it’s still fresh–as soon as possible after it’s made.  As far as cheeses go, burrata is relatively new and not just to New Mexico.  It wasn’t made until the 1920s then it took a while before it made it across the pond from Italy to the United States. 

Amore not only offers burrata as an appetizer, but features it as the showpiece of a pizza named in honor of Robert Caporuscio, mentor and inspiration to owners Gabriel and Kimberly Amador.  The Maestro “Robert’s Burrata Pie” is constructed with Pecorino Sardo (D.O.C.), a rare sheep’s cheese from Sardinia (D.O.C., by the way is a patent nobility accorded to only 26 Italian cheeses; it means the cheese is now protected to maintain the original conditions of the cheese); Italian white truffle, Porcini mushrooms, grape tomatoes, house-made burrata, basil and olio.  We’ve had “quattro formaggio” (four cheese) pizzas that are less cheesy than this pie, a salty, creamy orb of pure deliciousness so good and so rich you won’t leave a slice behind.

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Maestro “Roberto’s Burrata Pie”

In recent years, Farina has been anointed by some of the cognoscenti and diners alike as the Duke City’s favorite gourmet thin-crust pizza, but with the 2013 launch of Firenze Pizzeria and now Amore, the competition for best in the city has heated up. You’ll fall in love with Amore!

Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria
2929 Monte Vista Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 554-1967
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 14 August 2015
1st VISIT: 27 July 2013
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 22
COST: $$
BEST BET: Burrata, Pizza Sushi, Capricciosa “An Italian Classic”, Zia “The New Mexico Pizza”, Margherita “The Original”, Diavola “New Mexican-Style Spicy Salami”, Tropica “Island Delight”, Maestro “Roberto’s Burrata Pie

Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Witch’s Brew – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Witch’s Brew Coffee House

“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
~Macbeth Act 4 Scene 1

Each of the lunch ladies at the Peñasco Elementary School cafeteria undoubtedly earned a pair of wings, a harp, and a halo for all they were subjected to from the recalcitrant kids who lined up for our daily gruel. Whenever (and it was quite often) something unappetizing was served, we would burst into a chorus of “double, double, toil and trouble. Dump this slop on the double.” Most of us were six or seven years old and had certainly never heard of the three witches immortalized in the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth. We’d improvised the little ditty from something we’d heard on an episode of Bewitched (or was it Gilligan’s Island?), a situation comedy of the 1960s.

It wasn’t those sainted lunch ladies who first came to mind when I espied the sign for “Witches Brew,” a coffee house in the Altura Park neighborhood. Now much more geriatrically advanced (and ostensibly more “grown up”) I tried to recall the remarkably precise and detailed incantation (was it “eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, tongue of dog?”…) uttered by Macbeth’s three witches as they concocted the most famous witches brew of all. Alas, my mind was too cluttered with the “dump this slop on the double” chant of my childhood.

From the dining room

Fittingly Witch’s Brew occupies the space previously held by another mythical character, the long defunct Blue Dragon, a coffee house and eatery whose eight year absence has made Duke City hearts grow fonder. As with its predecessor on Girard, Witch’s Brew is quirky and comfortable, a homey milieu in which you can procure enchanting eats and bewitching coffee. The dining room is an upgrade, offering cozy booths that seem tailor-made for long visits as you luxuriate over a pizza or sandwich. The cynosure of another expansive room is a pool table. Walls are festooned with the works of local virtuosos plying their craft in various artsy mediums.

Esthetics and ambiance aside, what sets Witch’s Brew apart is its vibe, the sense of déjà vu and belonging you feel when you first step into the joint. Even if you never set foot in the Blue Dragon, there’s something more than vaguely familiar about Witch’s Brew. For the more seasoned among us, perhaps it’s the sense of nostalgia gleaned from having studied assiduously in similar venues even as live music or a poetry slam unfolded (sometimes rather loudly) in the background.

Apricot Teacake

If you need help getting started in the morning, the Witch’s Brew can hook you up with hot Red Rock Roasters coffee or an 18-hour cold-brewed coffee as well as an assortment of eye-opening breakfast sandwiches and pastries. Return for lunch and you’ll revel in a selection of pizzas baked in the same Baker’s Pride oven once used by the Blue Dragon. The menu, scrawled on a slate board, also offers soups, burritos, salads, nachos and much more. You’ll be hard-pressed to tear your eyes away from the pie case which may be replete with pies, cakes, cheesecakes, Danishes, fruit and several types of cookies.

Feast your eyes on the apricot teacakes then let your taste buds confirm what your eyes tell you. These are perhaps even better than they look—thick, dense, apricot-infused teacakes with a generously slathered on apricot glaze. These aren’t artificially ripened, overly sweetened canned apricots, my friends. They’re imbued with Mother Nature’s freshness and the musky tartness of apricots that not long ago hung from a branch on a tall apricot tree.

Granola with Fruit

It wasn’t that long ago, granola was ascribed with such characteristics as rustic, tree-hugger bran, organic, natural and boring. Today, artisans and innovators are doing interesting things with granola, elevating it from the aforementioned to something inspired and maybe even chic. Witch’s Brew’s take on granola is neither. It might be easier to find Forrest Fenn’s treasure than to find something other than oats on the plate and we love our fruits and nuts, too. The yogurt itself is unsweetened which is a major plus as are the fruits (kiwi, watermelon, grapes, apple slices) served on a separate bowl.

What Bohemians and long-ago frequenters of the Blue Dragon want to know is if the venerable oven can still weave its magic on a pizza. If you believe pizza ovens have a memory and that, like a good pan, they can be “seasoned,” the answer is “the magic is still there.” There are a number of pizza options on the menu, including a taco pizza (black bean-red chile sauce, roasted chicken and al-fresco toppings) and a white pizza sans tomato sauce, but with plenty of garlic. You’re sure to find one you’ll love.

Pizza Margherita

Traditionalists and historians will enjoy the Pizza Margherita, the acknowledged progenitor of every pizza. Tradition dictates that the Margherita is adorned simply in the colors of the Italian flag: white from mozzarella, red from tomato sauce and green from basil. Add the color of char around the braided cornicione (the edge or lip of a pizza) and a bit of golden sheen from semolina flour and you’ve got a beauteous pie, one that’s chewy on the inside and crisp on the outside. The pie itself is rather thin, but it doesn’t wilt when picked up. Though the tomato sauce is generously applied, it doesn’t overwhelm the cheese. Thankfully salt isn’t a prominent part of this pie’s flavor profile.

Some would argue that the premise of a combination pizza is to get as many ingredients on one pie as you possibly can. Others look for combination pizzas to have a more thematic (Hawaiian, meat lovers, veggie, for example) appeal. Still others look for combinations that work well together. That’s what the combination pizza at Witch’s brew does. Constructed with pepperoni, black olives, onions and mozzarella, it’s not a profligate pile-up of ingredients, but the toppings do go very well together.

Combination Pizza

The Witch’s Brew is an enchanting coffeehouse in the heart of the Land of Enchantment. One can only wonder what type of ditty the Gil of my childhood would have composed about its culinary alchemy.

Witch’s Brew
1517 Girard Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 835-5072
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 11 July 2015
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Combination Pizza, Pizza Margherita, Granola with Fruit

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DaVinci’s Gourmet Pizza – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Da Vinci’s Pizza Cafe on Indian School and Girard

For more than two years, Dan Brown’s brilliant and controversial novel, The DaVinci Code was a permanent fixture as number one on the New York Times best seller list. Brown’s magnus opus postulates the existence of a clandestine society in Europe which, for centuries, has been the guardian of a hallowed bloodline whose lineage descended from Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. This secret society included such luminaries as Leonardo DaVinci, Isaac Newton and Galileo Galilei. While many people may consider this terrific tome heretical, at its very least the DaVinci Code spawned a renaissance (rebirth of learning) in the Renaissance (period of European history between the 14th and 17th centuries when a cultural rebirth occurred).

In 2005, renaissance man (a man with extraordinarily broad and comprehensive knowledge) John Mickey launched DaVinci’s Gourmet Pizza in Albuquerque’s far Northeast Heights and his brainchild is spawning a renaissance  (rebirth again) of its own among pizza enthusiasts–so much so that it was named the best new restaurant in the Alibi‘s 2005 Readers Choice issue. What makes this accolade doubly impressive is that his restaurant was tucked away for its first eight years in operation in the Shops at Mountain Run and until 2009, was available only for carry-out and delivery.

The front dining room at Da Vinci’s

In 2014, DaVinci’s Gourmet Pizza moved to a more centrally located location in Altura Park a few blocks north of the University of New Mexico.  Now situated in a repurposed auto repair shop/gas station, DaVinci’s has classed-up the area’s pizza availability with dine-in, carry-out and delivery of a diverse and expansive menu.  Even better, the restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with much more than pizza.  Breakfast offerings, for example, include two breakfast calzones as well as a number of breakfast pizzas and a coffee-espresso menu designed to help get you started on a sleepy morning.

Though the name DaVinci’s Gourmet Pizza is no longer subtitled “where every pizza is a work of art”  the menu still lists its pizzas under the categories “The Masterpieces” and “Premium Masterpieces.”  All but two pizzas (the Hawaiian and the Green Chile Bacon Cheeseburger) are named for a famous artist of the Renaissance era, some contemporaneous with the eponymous Leonardo himself.

The Veronese

Children of the 90s who have come to associate the names Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello and Leonardo with anthropomorphic turtle brothers who live in the sewers of New York City might not know that these names gracing pizzas are named for artists, but they’ll certainly consider each pizza a work of edible art.  Pizzas are available in small (12″), medium (14″), large (16″) and colossal (18″) sizes and can be created on a canvas of either white or wheat crust.  Meat and veggie toppings are available for build-your-own pizzas.  You can also order pizza by the slice.

We learned that DaVinci’s Gourmet Pizza is like a breath of fresh air, so uniquely different in concept and execution that it should continue to be more than competitive in a glutted carry-out and delivery pizza market currently defined by mediocre national chains. Visiting DaVinci’s will also affirm that four walls and a hovering wait staff don’t define a great dining experience; we’ve enjoyed our pizza at a nearby park where we took in the sights of romping dogs, playing children and nature’s finery.  We’ve enjoyed it in one of the restaurant’s several tables.

The Alberti

Gourmet pizza isn’t a stereotypical, haphazardly thrown together menagerie of fru-fru ingredients, it’s the culinary arrangement of top quality sauces, seasonings, cheeses, meats and toppings that work harmoniously to craft a delicious pie. DaVinci’s Gourmet Pizza offers 43 different toppings, some of which aren’t used anywhere else in Albuquerque. The Botticelli, for example, includes rosemary roasted potatoes. Best of all, the inventive array of DaVinci’s creations are fashioned on a crispy New York style canvas substantial enough to hold hefty portions.

Owner John Mickey is justifiably proud of his pies which are meticulously monitored so they’re extricated from the oven at the precise time to ensure just the right amount of char and optimum doneness of ingredients.  Mickey trains his staff to be attentive to each pie.  He wants a remarkable consistency in each pizza.  A perfectionist with a keen attention to detail, he spent more than two months experimenting until he crafted the perfect whole wheat crust.  He’s added a gluten-free crust, too, but it’s currently available only in the 12-inch size.

The Boticelli

Gourmet pizza also isn’t necessarily crafted on a canvas of dough topped with tomato sauce. In Connecticut and other Northeastern states, the traditional white pizza (pizza bianca) generally has no sauce, just a covering of mozzarella cheese on top of garlic, olive oil and herbs with whatever other toppings a pizzaioli might add. DaVinci’s Gourmet Pizza is introducing Albuquerque to pizza sans tomato sauce and while not a new experience for us, might be a revelation for some Duke City diners so accustomed to plebian tomato sauce based pizzas.

4 July 2010: The aforementioned Alberti easily lives up to its “masterpiece” billing with standard ingredients that work together exceptionally well and made the additives we requested more than welcome. The standard Alberti features Fontina and mozzarella cheeses, roasted garlic, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, goat cheese, parsley and Kalamata olives on an olive oil base to which we  have added Canadian bacon and Italian sausage. This jazzy, grease-free pizza with its exceedingly fresh and ingeniously non-traditional toppings and olive oil blessed crust is fabulous in every respect.  The marriage of Fontina and goat cheeses is particularly memorable.

Breakfast Calzone with Red and Green Chile

4 July 2010: The Boticelli is yet another example of John Mickey’s creativity.  The description–marinated chicken on a bed of rosemary roasted potatoes, red onions, covered with a blend of mozzarella and Kasseri cheese over an olive oil base–sounds at first browse, as one dry pie.  Rosemary roasted potatoes and marinated chicken baked in a slate oven can’t possibly be moist, right?  Far from it.  This is a moist, cheesy pizza with right-sized ingredients baked for the optimum time to ensure a delicious pie with nary a hint of desiccation.

4 July 2010: Save for bread knots and chicken bites, DaVinci’s doesn’t have traditional “appetizers” but you can start  off your meal with one of three artisan salads or bread knots.  The Veronese salad (green leaf lettuce tossed with garbanzo beans, diced red pepper, Kasseri cheese, Genoa salami and red onions served with your choice of Ranch, Bleu Cheese or Italian dressing) is fresh and delicious, an excellent starter.  A small salad is big enough for two to share.  DaVinci’s has two dessert offerings, cannoli and tiramisu, neither of which are homemade, but both of which are highly recommended by the owner.

10 July 2015: DaVinci’s breakfast calzones are a unique offering whose time has definitely come.  Though not named for any Renaissance artist, the breakfast calzone (eggs, bacon or sausage, Cheddar, onion and red or green chile) is itself a masterpiece, one reminiscent of New Mexico’s ubiquitous breakfast burrito, albeit on a different canvas.  There’s only one thing which can improve this calzone and that would be offering a ‘smothered” option so you have chile inside the calzone as well as topping it.  The chile isn’t especially piquant, but that’s the case in many breakfast burritos, too.

For most Duke City diners, a non-rush hour drive to DaVinci’s Gourmet Pizza is closer than it used to be.  It’s a drive savvy diners should take often.

DaVinci’s Gourmet
2904 Indian School, N.E.

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Web Site
(505) 275-2722
LATEST VISIT:  10 July 2015

# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Alberti with Canadian Bacon & Sausage; The Michelangelo, The Boticelli, The Veronese (salad), Breakfast Calzone

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