“My husband is a born-in-Milano Italian and we have eaten many pizzas in Italy. This is the real thing — and in Hudson, Wisconsin! Woo-hoo!”
So writes Yelper Patti I. in support of Hudson, Wisconsin’s Bricks Neapolitan Pizza. And if you’re willing to overlook the fact that Milan and Naples are several worlds apart, the comment reflects a dedication to Continental standards that helps Bricks — a VPN-certified pizzeria — stand out amid an ocean of local pizza joints.
This much can be said for the VPN certification program that has asserted itself in the Upper Midwest over the past five or so years: When you see the “VPN” seal (Vera Pizza Napoletana, true Neapolitan pizza), you’ve got a fighting chance at a good meal.
The rules of America’s VPN association are relatively simple: You need a high temperature (800° F) wood-burning oven; specific types of flour, tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil; low-speed or hand-mixed dough; and some oversight from the VPN group itself. This doesn’t guarantee a great pizza; you can still have crackerlike or mushy crust, overcooked cheese, and any number of other execution problems. Still, it’s a start. Bricks builds from the VPN concept to execute a nice, relatively straightforward Neapolitan style pie, with few hitches.
A classic margherita-style pizza (below) with the “Pizza D.O.C” option was as simple and pure as any diner might hope. The pizza itself was a straightforward American rendering of the Neapolitan standby — thin, chewy crust, bright tomatoes, high-quality cheese, and basil. The $2.25 “Pizza D.O.C.” add-on meant that the pizza featured imported mozzarella di bufala, made from whole water buffalo milk. (Whether you can really make a VPN-worthy pizza using local, non-Italian mozzarella is a brain-melting argument that we’ll delegate to the comments section, if anyone wants to take a crack at it there.)
The result was an extremely lactic, somewhat sweet, and very tender cheese topping on the pie. The only slight regrets were that the rich, engaging cheese shouted down the tomatoes, and the crust could have used a little more oomph and resilience.
A Siciliana pizza (top) was also a well-designed specimen, the olives, artichoke hearts, and prosciutto both in balance and evenly distributed. The non-D.O.C. cheese was a little less flavorful, but the knife cuts both ways — instead of being an overbearing star player, the cheese was more adequately incorporated into the ensemble cast.
Bricks pizzas are similar to the Twin Cities VPN standard (Punch), although the Hudson eatery is more generous on the cheese, and less focused on the sauce. Whether that’s a good thing is a matter for personal interpretation.
Prices are reasonable, on the whole — individual 10-inch pies range from $8.75 for the margherita up to about $15 for a meat-heavy pie tricked out with buffalo mozz and the presumably non-autentico Pizza Vesuvio option (ricotta stuffed in the crust). And while there’s not much to be said for the ambiance (Spartan suburban chic — imagine the opposite of Fat Lorenzo’s), service was prompt and attentive, and the central location is fairly clutch.
So after you’re done rocking Abigail Page antiques for obscure Midwestern gastronomica, you now know where to get a hot slice of Naples.
BEST BET: The classic Margherita with D.O.C. mozzarella is a guaranteed good move; pizza blogger and Heavy Table producer Aaron Landry also recommends the Quattro Formaggi.
Bricks Neapolitan Pizza [warning: website is model for how not to incorporate music and the Internet]
407 2nd Street
Hudson, WI 54016
BAR: Wine and Beer
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $8-15