1. Braza Brava Pizza Napoletana
7959 Broadway, Ste 300, (210) 320-2100, facebook.com/brazabrava
About the first thing one notices upon entering Braza Brava in the Collection is the igloo-shaped, Neapolitan oven behind the bar: It's tiled in brilliant red and exudes power and promise. Pause for effect.
But the Diavola pizza that issued forth one recent lunch, though indeed promising, lacked real conviction. We now know about well-blistered crusts in San Antonio, and despite the claim that this oven can achieve temperatures approaching 1,000 degrees, the evidence just wasn't there. (Second visit: I can't vouch for taste, but the couple at the bar next to me was delivered beautifully blistered pies.) For a pie with a devilish description, the taste was also somewhat subdued—red pepper flakes were required to perk up a base of decent mozzarella, fresh basil, simple tomato and modestly spicy soppressata. Once adulterated, this was a perfectly pleasant pizza; yes, I ate the whole thing in the company of a glass of rosso di Montepulciano, all the while wishing there were a smaller, more personal version to save me from excessive consumption.
Questions of portion size also occur in the appetizer section—an issue not unique to BB. As enticing as the well-garnished Roman artichokes wrapped in prosciutto sound, at $10 they do beg to be shared. So does the handsome-looking $15 plate of burrata with roasted vine tomatoes. The daily special, tomato bisque, however, scored on all counts; a simple Neapolitan-style panino (it's presented in a folded pizza crust envelope), is not too big, not too small...and the arugula version with goat cheese and parmacotto ham is bright, fresh and appealing—no blistering required or desired.