A slice of Neapolitan pizza at Locale90 in Hermosa and Redondo

Real Deal Pizza: Sharing a slice of Neapolitan pizza at Locale90 in Hermosa and Redondo.

Real Deal Pizza: Sharing a slice of Neapolitan pizza at Locale90 in Hermosa and Redondo.

Written by Bonnie Graves

Much like coffee in the U.S., pizza has undergone a dramatic renaissance. You might still find folks who drink pre- ground Chock Full o’Nuts, Folgers or Maxwell House—the classic early brands—but nowadays you’re much more likely to find coffee connoisseurs who argue passionately about their favorite beans and brewing systems. Similarly, while franchises like Domino’s and Pizza Hut may yet hold a large market share, pizza—the real deal pizza, that is—is having its moment in the 800 degree oven and then some.

Authentic Italian pizza shares very little in common with its greasy, red-sauced, cheese-heavy American cousin. And don’t get me wrong. I’ll always have a place in my heart and in my stomach for that classic triangle from the Original Ray’s Pizza in New York’s West Village—typically obtained well after midnight, when one daintily dabs the grease off with napkins before inhaling it whole. Yum.

In my more mature years, though, I find that I’ve become a real fan of Neapolitan pizza and, as such, was delighted to discover the amazing pizzas being produced at South Bay favorite Locale90. What distinguishes Neapolitan pizza from its more southerly neighbors? There are a couple of key concepts to grasp, not the least of which is size.

Neapolitan pizzas are never sold by the slice, nor are they made in those enormous, team-sized circumferences either. Instead pizza pies are made about the size of a small Frisbee and are meant to be consumed by one person.

Secondly, they don’t really do the “everything” approach, e.g., 17 toppings on a single pie. Rather, one to two toppings are given a starring role—in my recent case, some broccoli rabe, fennel sausage and a few chili flakes.

Lastly, don’t go necessarily expecting red sauce. While tomatoes and tomato sauces are common in southern Italian versions like Sicily’s bready rectangle, northern pizzas often are “biancas”—white pizzas with some mozzarella and Parm but no mandatory ladle of marinara.

There are several things that Locale90 (“lo-CALL-eh”) is doing wonderfully right— not the least of which is its magnificent pizza oven, which is fueled by olive wood and fires up your crust to a perfect char in just 90 seconds. (That slight bit of black on the edges enhances the pizza’s flavor, trust me. If you don’t like it, go get a microwaveable Stouffer’s pizza and stop reading this.)

And if you’re inclined to fold your slices up and eat them American-style, feel free— but those knives and forks are there for a reason. Most northern Italians eat pizza with utensils.

Pizza purists usually could care less about the toppings—the quixotic quest is always for the perfect crust. I remember a friend who worked for Nancy Silverton at LA’s Pizzeria Mozza told me that this great chef spent years perfecting her basic dough recipe. The classics are sometimes the most diffcult to master.

And while I love Silverton’s crust, I gotta tell you: The crust at Locale90 is better. It just is. It’s pretty much perfect, and thanks go to Chef Michele Galifi on that one.

The vibe at Locale90 is relaxed but efficient. I dined there with my kids on a recent rainy evening and watched the dining room fill with happy regulars who were on a first-name basis with the staff.

I loved the small but thoughtful beer and wine list. I paired my bianco pizza with a lovely little glass of vermentino, although the list also offers some local beers and wines in addition to the Italian selections.

I started with a terrifically simple salad of market greens, herbs, shaved fennel and house vinaigrette. I think the herbs were snipped from the little garden boxes at the front of the restaurant—a nice touch of freshness.

The authenticity of the experience carried over to our very handsome Italian waiter, who explained that the “90” in the pizzeria’s name refers both to the 90 seconds it takes to fire up a pizza as well as to their expansion plans. With two locations already open in the South Bay—Hermosa and Redondo—the next “9-0” zip code to benefit will be Manhattan Beach, where a third outlet is planned.

This is a concept that sells itself. It’s fast, fresh, delicious and affordable. A family of four can have two adult beverages, two kids’ drinks, two salads and plenty of pizza and still be home with time to spare. I’d eat there at least twice a week and call myself blessed.

1718 S. Catalina Avenue in Redondo Beach 310-540-9190  
1040 Hermosa Avenue in Hermosa Beach 310-372-9090