Features 3 minutes 05 April 2023

It's a Match

The most unnatural, natural pairing, pizza and organic wine, hooks one writer away from carbonated purgatory.

Call me basic, but growing up, a sugary can of bubbly was my preferred beverage to go along with pizza. No slice was complete without some Coca-Cola, which transitioned to Sprite, and eventually Ginger Ale. To me, the first taste of bubbles combined with the savory, salty, and sometimes meaty pizza, were the perfect pair. However, learning about Una Pizza Napoletana’s carefully curated wine program had me intrigued. Wine and pizza? Really? I kept asking how anyone would ever opt for wine with pizza. But then again I know friends that favor New Amsterdam’s raspberry flavored vodka for its taste. So with that in mind, I grabbed a glass and learned the ABC’s of pairing vino with pizza. Now I want to preface this by saying, the below is my experience—for the official take on what makes Una Pizza Napoleatana’s food so good, check out our Inspectors take here.

On one of New York’s first non-bone chilling winter nights, Orchard Street was already in spring. Young couples perched under neon lights wait to be taken to their tables (available by reservation). Seats at the bar are on a walk-in basis, but fill-up fast. It’s obvious, this isn’t your typical dough house. Lining the restaurant are cans of San Marzano tomato sauce elegantly set amongst the smattering of personal photos and memorabilia. “This one was in front of the New Jersey pizzeria on our last day open,” chef Anthony Mangieri reminisces. “And this is of me trying to teach my daughter how to make her own pizza.” The other patrons all knew Mangieri’s story—of the doughy Neapolitan-style pies being churned out from the wood-burning oven—and they’d come for a slice of the action. Unlike everyone else though, I wasn’t here solely for the pizza. I was here for the wine. Hailing mainly from the region of Campania, about three-fourths of the menu were natural wines with the remainder being organic and biodynamic.

“Natural wine just fits so well with the way we make pizza,” says Mangieri. “The way they make this wine is exactly like the way we make the pizza dough, it just feels like it's meant to be together.” The dough behind each pie is naturally produced meaning its naturally fermented with no commercial yeast. The connection’s there, but what about the taste? The first, the Il Re è Nudo, a rosato. A rosato, or rosé for those unfamiliar with the term, is credited as being one of the oldest styles of wine making and is known for its beautiful light rose color. This rosato in particular was made from 100% primitivo grapes spontaneously fermented in amphora. That translucent hue mirrored the taste which worked in tandem with the earliest bites, house-made Lupini bean salad and an olive medley, keeping things savory but slick.

As the evening progressed, so did the wines. The next, Paski from Cantina Giardino, was made from Coda Di Volpe Bianca grapes that go through a four-day, skin-on maceration—this is the technique of cold-soaking unfermented grape juice in the crushed skins, seeds and stalks of the grape. This process is vital as the result is nothing short of zesty. The description mentioned fresh and smooth notes with hints of honey, florals, and minerals. Zesty works due to the citrus component. The house favorite, the Melogna from Monte Di Grazia, is made from century-old-vines that follow ancient rules of cultivation in stainless tanks.

Three wines down (and with a bit of a natural wine buzz), chef Mangieri delivered some pizzas. He brought over the Bianca, their take on a ‘white’ pizza using DOP buffalo mozzarella, garlic, basil, Sicilian sea salt, and extra virgin olive oil, and their special which rotates out weekly. On my trip it was a slightly spicy version of a margherita. Think cherry tomato sauce and all the elevated essentials but top it with Sicilian capers. And of course, each pie came with its own wine pairing. For the weekly special, an Aglianico grape-derived bottle from Cantina Giardino Campania. The vintage was full, rich, and complements the flavors from the just the right amount of Sicilian sea salt to the basil that looked too perfectly laid on top. For the Bianca (which looked tantalizingly good even to a carnivore like me), they selected a Cantina del Barone Particella 928. Chef Mangieri's personal favorite? The "Il Chaos", from Enoz. Made from skin-on Primitivo grapes that are fermented for eight days, six months in terracotta amphoras, and aged in an old World War II bomb shelter with no temperature control, the fermentation process for this wine might even be more impressive than the wine itself.

Before I could even take a sip though, I had to first let the wine breathe.

Mark Weinberg/Una Pizza Napoletana
Mark Weinberg/Una Pizza Napoletana

Kayla Enright/Una Pizza Napoletena
Kayla Enright/Una Pizza Napoletena

“It just feels like it's meant to be together.”

If you’ve ever heard that phrase, or seen a figure on tv or in the movies swirl their glass, it’s not because they’re a pretentious snob. Well, that’s not the only reason. Letting wines breathe means allowing it to oxidize, softening the flavors and releasing the aroma. The swirling enhances the smell and taste. Ten minutes and two slices later, it was time to try the Particella 928, which were made from Campania Fiano grapes that were replanted in sandy volcanic soils with specific orientated rows with respect to the sun. The result was the ideal blend of crisp, smooth, and filling.

Feeling satiated, I could see that chef was too but in a different way. Whereas I was, quite literally full, chef’s love of his craft from the first bite to the final sip nourished him. “It’s been the most constant part of my life since I was a kid,” says Mangieri who started at 15. That dedication comes through and I’m proof. Wine, like people, has its own history, flavor, and appearance—finding the right one requires curiosity and openness. And thanks to Chef, I’ll swap out my carbonated bubbles for a glass of Camapnia’s finest any day.

Mark Weinberg/Una Pizza Napoletana
Mark Weinberg/Una Pizza Napoletana

Hero image: Mark Weinberg/Una Pizza Napoletana

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