At the helm of Pizzata Pizzeria + Aperitivo, a new Naples outpost of the lauded Philly operation, stand Davide Lubrano and Vinny Gallagher—master pizzaioli (pizza makers). The proof is in the crust.
Davide was born on Long Island, where his family ran a pizzeria; he moved to Monte di Procida, Italy (in the Campania region outside Naples) at age 4 and worked at his dad’s pizzeria throughout his childhood, rolling and balling dough and chopping tomatoes. In his mid-30s, he formally trained at the Roman Pizza Academy in Miami. Meanwhile, Vinny honed his pizza chops at Del Popolo pizza kitchen in San Francisco and won the 2019 USA Caputo Cup—a competition for the best traditional Neapolitan and New York-style pizzas—for his classic take on a Margherita pie.
In 2020, the duo opened Pizzata Pizzeria in Philadelphia to high acclaim. At their year-old, high-energy North Naples location—outfitted with requisite white subway tiles and checkered tablecloths—Davide and Vinny draw from New York-style pies, which use a lower-hydration dough, low-moisture cheeses, and are baked in eight to 10 minutes (unlike Neapolitan wood-fired oven pizzas, which cook in a quick 60 to 90 seconds). Philadelphia food critic Craig LaBan once described their transcendent base as “a crust that crackles with a flavorful chew and roasty tang that reverbs after a slice is gone.”
When Vinny talks about pizza, he talks about rheology and microbial and enzymatic activity. For the pair, making pies is as much an art as a science, and they are methodical about every step—down to considering the glycemic index spike of their dough and creating the perfect environment to balance the count for those with gluten sensitivities. “Not to mention you tend to feel more ‘full and satisfied’ for longer, which hopefully reduces the likelihood of overeating,” Vinny says.
First, they make a poolish starter—a quicker pre-ferment that enhances taste and texture with a softer, aromatic flavor—with organic rye flour. This pre-ferment goes into the mixer with a combination of up to three flours, water, oil and salt, which all then rests or matures. On day three, the mixture goes into the cooler, where the brisk temperature allows the dough to continue fermenting at a slower rate, developing a deeper flavor. By day four or five (temperature, humidity and fermentation speed determine the final timeline), it’s ready to portion into balls and hand-stretch into precise 16-inch discs. “The dough is alive and unique; every day, we have to adapt it,” Vinny says. The pizzaioli want a supple, airy finish with a velvety texture and balanced elasticity. “We don’t shoot for a dry, cracker-like dough or one that is too mushy, [which can] become too chewy,” he says.
Vinny and Davide are installing custom electric ovens that reach 903 F to produce results similar to wood-fired brick ovens, where blistering heat ensures a quick, even cook and the trademark crispy bottom. “The mouthfeel has to have a perfect moisture balance with a slight tang that makes your teeth sweat,” Vinny says.
While they take the art and craft of pizza making seriously, Davide and Vinny know the beauty of pizza lies in its egalitarian simplicity and the joy a perfect slice can bring. “‘Pizzata’ means ‘pizza party’—a gathering of happy people getting together to eat pizza,” Davide says. You won’t find pies piled high with dozens of esoteric ingredients at their place. Instead, they adhere to a less-is-more philosophy and rely on simple toppings of the highest quality.
For the sauce, they use organic crushed Italian tomatoes from premium brand Ciao Il Pomodoro di Napoli. The skinless, seedless tomatoes are grown in mineral-rich volcanic soil and are prized for their low water content, hearty consistency and robust flavor. The olive oil—extra virgin only—is Corto from California, pressed by a family who immigrated from Lucca, Italy. They source soppressata and prosciutto from some of the best Italian salumerie—producers such as Fiorucci, Fratelli Beretta and Citterio, who have been crafting the gold standard of cured meats since the 1800s. There’s Cup & Char pepperoni that curves and crusts to perfection; in-house porchetta; rich and creamy mozzarella and fior di latte by Grande Cheese Company, the go-to for many classic New York pizza spots. Oakes Farms, just down the road in Naples, keeps the larder stocked with pristine produce, such as basil, broccoli rabe, eggplant and plump grape tomatoes.
The finished product—say, a sausage and pepperoni pizza with ricotta and hot honey—is a veritable work of art. One bite can transport you well beyond Collier County. The hands-on duo brings unequaled passion to their craft and does everything insieme (together). They aim to raise the bar and infatuate pizza aficionados by turning people onto the beauty of the slow-fermentation crust. In Philadelphia, they’ve already brought in accolades—being named the best pizza in the city by numerous publications. With the latest expansion to Southwest Florida, nothing less is expected in Naples.