Talking authentic Neapolitan pizza
1. Tell us about V Pizza.
V Pizza is the idea, creation and funding of 4 Jacksonville natives. The main goal was to bring true Napolitano pizza to our home town. We knew that if we were going to reach our goal and serve something authentic, then we were going to have to use tools and ingredients that can only be gotten a world away, without using the excuse of distance to compromise anything. Prior to opening, the owners all agreed that authenticity was our number one priority. Even if there was initial resistance we would hold true to that commitment until our community knew the taste and benefits that come from something that has been perfected by Italians for over 1,000 years.
2. What makes V Pizza special?
In the restaurant world it's common to use terms like creativity and artistry only when describing "fine dining." We said, why not pizza and why not fast casual? What makes V Pizza special is the result you get from combining carefully selected ingredients, a talented chef, and one bad ass oven! Authenticity and quality are non-negotiables, and this ain't your typical backyard pizza oven! Stefano Ferrara ovens are handmade, brick by brick in Quatro - Naples. Three generations have been hand-building these authentic Neapolitan pizza ovens for close to 100 years. The name Stefano Ferrara and the ovens are themselves synonymous with quality. These wood fired ovens maintain temperatures between 900 and 950 degrees, consistently baking pizzas in roughly 90 seconds! The perfect combination of people, product and process create "the art of pizza."
3. How did you settle on Neapolitan pizza for V Pizza?
Prior to opening V Pizza we traveled to Italy for 10 days, took lots of pictures and ate pizza at least once a day (and gelato twice a day!). Neapolitan pizza is made from simple and fresh ingredients. It just so happens that those ingredients taste better and are better for you. The pizza we were eating in Italy was amazing, and it was something we had never tasted here at home. We had already discussed the V Pizza concept, our only question was: could we bottle that flavor experience and bring it back to Jacksonville?
4. Can you tell us more about Neapolitan pizza - what makes it unique?
Neapolitan pizza originated in Naples, Italy and in Italy pizza is serious business. According to the rules proposed by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, the genuine Neapolitan pizza dough consists of type 0 or 00 wheat flour, natural or brewer’s yeast, sea salt and distilled water. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low speed mixer. After a 24 hour rising process the dough must be formed by hand without the help of a rolling pin or other machine and may be no more than 3 millimeters thick. The pizza must be baked for 60 - 90 seconds in a 905 degree brick or stone oven with an oak wood fire. Everything from the size in circumference of the actual pizza to the thickness and consistency of the dough has been predetermined based on written standards of authenticity. There is no "sheet pizza." It's thinner and wetter at the center, which makes it less conducive to selling by the slice, and the char marks on the crust are an intentional characteristic. So it was written, and so it shall be.
5. You import all your ingredients from Italy … can you tell us about that?
San Marzano tomatoes grow on the volcanic plains to the south of Mount Vesuvius and they are used exclusively at V Pizza. We also import mozzarella di bufala Campana, made with the milk from water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio in a semi-wild state. This area is protected under a European designation of origin. We use prosciutto crudo di Parma. Product specifications completely prohibit any additives or nitrates. We also import Pancetta, soppressata, Calabrian peppers and a number of other quality fresh Italian ingredients. There are certainly easier and less expensive ways to make pizza...but if we are to fulfill our ultimate goal of bringing a true taste of Italy to our hometown, there is only one way to make pizza.
6. Once you decided on Neapolitan pizza, then what happened?
It has been quite a journey to get where we are today! We imported the special type 00 flour, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, San Marzano tomatoes, and shipped the hand made Ferrara ovens to Florida. We brought in some talented, experienced chefs and some classic Neapolitan recipes and starting making pizza. We didn't "nail it" the first time. The pizza was very good, but not good enough; not "spot on!" Now, when I look at the pizza I see Italy, and when I sink my teeth into it I taste Italy. My taste buds are very happy for us. What we really feel good about is the fact that our most experienced critics, those who have lived or traveled extensively in Italy, are also our biggest fans.
7. What are the most popular pizzas?
Our most popular signature pizzas are the Picante and Margherita, but with the selection of quality ingredients we offer most people choose to create their own pie. We have something for every palette - choice meats, fresh vegetables, and the best cheeses available, including imported burrata and bufala mozzarella. We believe that people care about what they put in their bodies, and what they feed their children. There is no bread or filler added to our meatballs, and no sugar added to the dough. We work hard to provide the freshest, most natural product possible. Many of the fresh items we have selected have a minimal shelf life and are imported weekly. In order to offer the food we set out to, we have to trade the cost and convenience at times for quality and authenticity. Mozzarella should not last 90 days on the shelf. We also have vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. Someone with a true gluten intolerance can still enjoy a salad, pizza or wings, and a dessert - the best gluten free brownie ever!
8. What’s on the menu, besides pizza?
Our chicken wings are simply fantastic, and I know a little about wings. They are not "Buffalo" wings. They are prepared with a unique blend of Italian spices and the flavor really pops. We also offer calzones, Stromboli, and panini - the classic prosciutto di parma is to die for! Everything is prepared with the same quality ingredients. Our chefs also offer a weekly pizza and panini special that is not on the menu. This gives them a chance to further showcase their creative talent. The salads are prepared fresh daily and we offer a variety of impressive desserts - our cannoli with Sicilian ricotta is the best money can buy! People who don't like cannoli, like this cannoli! You will not find a microwave oven or a fryer in the kitchen - everything is cooked in our wood fired pizza ovens!
9. What's next for V Pizza?
As of today [Feb 12] we are open at the Beach! The food will be identical to the V Pizza in San Marco. Sidecar is a San Marco neighborhood bar, and will remain that way. V Pizza in Jax Beach, however, will be paired with an incredible bar that will better mirror its surroundings. Flask and Cannon will share many of the Sidecar qualities, but with a twist - a beach twist. As we grow, it is our immediate goal to maintain the high standards of quality and authenticity, but to adapt to new locations. V Pizza San Marco was built in an existing industrial building, which was a former paint store. That industrial look and feel was incorporated into the restaurant - in fact we tried to change as little as possible appearance-wise. The open warehouse style will always be a part of the original V Pizza and Sidecar charm. The beach location has a very different look and feel. The artwork, aged beach wood walls, walk up window, full size slider windows and recessed lighting reflect the location, as does the addition of Italian gelato! Future locations will follow this footprint - the same, yet different.
10. Were there any big challenges getting V Pizza going?
Any venture into the restaurant business is considered a risk. We knew we could get this right if we put in the time and effort. We feel that we have indeed recreated Neapolitan style pizza! The real question was whether or not it could work here in northeast Florida. Many larger and more "self-proclaimed" culturally diverse cities have successfully introduced pizza Napolitana. So we asked ourselves, why not here; why not now? This is our hometown and we love this part of the country. We have worked very hard to perfect our craft, and San Marco and Jacksonville have supported us. There will always be people, even "experts" that will tell you that it won't work here. We went with our gut, and our heart on this one. Jacksonville is experiencing a cultural awakening, and we are proud to be a part of it. Those that don't believe this community recognizes and appreciates quality food and drink...well they don't know Jax!
11. What does the V in V Pizza stand for?
The V is for "veloce." In Italian it means fast, or rapid. We settled on V because one of the partners couldn't spell Veloce (just kidding). We actually really liked the V as a simple stand alone logo, and as it turns out, it's a good conversation piece. For example: turn the V upside down and you get Mt. Vesuvius, where the clay for the ovens is formed with volcanic ash and the San Marzano tomatoes grow. See how that works?
12. Can you tell us about the 4 owners?
The four owners of V Pizza are not seeking the spotlight. Our employees deserve the credit for our success. Drop by and meet them, and feel free to tip! We appreciate the tremendous support we have received from the local community and it is because of you that we are bringing our food to the beach. This isn't about the owners - at V Pizza the food is the star - preferably 5 of them if you are doing a review!