Punch Neapolitan Pizza
210 E Hennepin Avenue
There are few things more satisfying than pizza and beer on a cold Friday night. We set out across the river and arrived in front of a brightly lit pizzeria, the scent of baking dough and hearty tomatoes wafting near the entrance.
Just inside, we ordered our gourmet pie at the counter — choosing among the large selection by taking a personal recommendation from the cashier — and watched the chef expertly slide our order into a large tile-covered kiln. Within moments, our pizza was ready for eating. The trick? A 800-degree oven, needing only 90 seconds to adequately warm the toppings, toast the crust, and melt the cheese. The result? A steaming-hot pie of authentic Neapolitan style.
I have to express appreciation for eateries that promote local brews — it not only supports area business, but adds originality to the establishment’s menu. But that night I wanted anything other than fancy, ready to enjoy a cheap, light pour with ultimate, er, drinkability. Instead, we only had three full-bodied options that were each nearly $5 a glass, comprising 1/3 of our total bill.
Seeing the moderate diameter of the pizzeria’s one size offering, Jim and I chose to split a dinner salad and pizza. The Gorgonzola salad was an attempt at personality next to the house and Caesar salads, but was fair at best. Each piece of lettuce was so slathered in dressing that we needed the rosemary breadsticks on the side just to balance each bite.
Punch’s Toto pizza features homemade tomato sauce so fresh it tasted like summer, despite the single-digit temperatures outside, atop a soft canvas freckled with crispy evidence of the oven’s extreme temperature. The pie is creatively topped with an outstanding mix of flavors — tangy arugula, sharp prosciutto and creamy goat cheese, seasoned with cracked red pepper and garlic. However, the attractive combination was enjoyed for just the first two bites, as the pizza only held enough toppings to cover the middle of the pie. Each slice ended with a solid three inches of puffy crust, leaving us feeling more full of bread than substance when we finished.
The crafty pizza choices, picturesque setting and reasonable prices will bring us back, but we’ll be smarter — ordering dressing on the side and not expecting our stomachs to burst at the seams. As if those are hardly things to complain about.
RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Menu Selection: ♠♠♠♠
Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠ 1/2
COMPLETE EXPERIENCE: ♠♠♠♠
Total bill: $30