On weekend nights, chef-owner Justin Piazza has lines out the door to his cozy, no-frills pizzeria in downtown Glendale, and it's surely no coincidence that Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives ate on this now-hallowed ground. TV stardust aside, Piazza turns out terrific pizza, deemed VPN (Verace Pizza Napoletana or Real Neapolitan Pizza) by Italy's VPN Association, which means he's required to follow strict rules about ingredients (using finely milled OO flour from Italy, for example) as well as the cooking process. All you really need to know is his wood-fired, brick oven pies are wonderfully tender, offering up just the right amount of tug per bite. Although the place is justifiably famous for the Bianca (a rich white pizza dotted with clumps of ricotta, $12), the new one called Dolce Diavolo (Sweet-Spicy) is every bit as delicious, topped with sopressata, house-made mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, fiery pickled Calabrian chiles and honey ($13). And if you're lucky, you'll be there on a night they're making Montanara (fried pizza, the traditional street food of Naples) as a special.
This sweet neighborhood spot -- its name an acronym for first-time restaurant-owners Lindsay and Matt Pilato -- turns out brilliant pies: thin-crust Neapolitan numbers charred from a red-hot stopover in a red-tiled wood-burning oven. Don't think for a minute that these pizza parvenus don't know what they're doing. Matt attended a real-deal Italian pizza school in San Francisco, and his 20 pies (14 reds, 6 whites) are a revelation. So far, it's The Kicker (another spicy one strewn with Calabrese salami and Calabrian peppers, $16) and the Geppetto (topped with Italian sausage, Gorgonzola and caramelized onion marmalade, $16) that light up my life, but I fully intend to work my way down this appealing list.