Until the likes of Basic landed in our neck of the woods, did anyone know there was such a thing as New Haven-style pizza? I mean, outside of New Haven, that is? It doesn't really matter, because it's here now, and thank Luigi, because it's damn tasty. URBN Coal Fired Pizza in North Park is the latest New Haven pie haven to hit San Diego, following its Vista counterpart, as well as the Basic, its Downtown partner-in-pie.
URBN is worth its own visit as it has a larger menu than its two family members. There are fancy-pants cheese and charcuterie plates, salads and coal-fired wings. New Haven-style pizza is delectably thin-crusted but also cooked in a crazy-hot oven, often fired by coal, giving the outside crust a crispy texture with blistery black blemishes (aka “char”) while keeping the inside soft and chewy.
The mini-chain's most popular pie is the Mashed Potato pizza, an amazing act of starch-on-starch that shouldn't work but somehow does. Porked up with pancetta and seasoned with parmesan and fresh mozzarella, it's a menu champ for a reason. If you haven't had a chance to check this pie out, put it on your San Diego foods bucket list. (Also, put “Stop using ‘bucket list'” on the list.)
You've all the freedom in the world to build your own well-stocked circumference of toppings, choosing from the standard pepperoni, sausage or mushroom. But why not stretch yourself, for crying out loud? Don't listen to Mr. City Eat, who refuses to even look at an anchovy because, as he says “they're bait, not food.” Be bold and try the white anchovies as a pizza topping, perhaps with a mellow accompaniment, like ricotta or arugula.
If you prefer, URBN has put together some of its cleverest ideas for pizza combos, taking the difficult decisions out of your hands. I'm a big fan of the Eggplant Parmesan pizza, a red pie with whole leaves of basil jauntily strewn across the surface, gobs of fresh and bubbly mozzarella, and perfect slices of breaded and fried aubergine, baked among its cheesy pals to make a slightly sweet, barely crispy and totally unexpected topping. Need a bit more protein? Check out the brawny, beefy delight that is the Meatball pizza. It's boldly partnered with red onion, yet mellowed just enough with sweet, mild ricotta.
I rarely see a reason to order a salad in a joint known for pizza and beer, but URBN's offerings are eye-catching. The Figs & Greens salad offers up peppery leaves barely dressed with tangy white balsamic vinegar, but before you get to thinking it's too healthy for you, the plate is loaded up with earthy hunks of chevre and candy-like figs poached in Port.
Though URBN has plenty of craft brews on tap (and by the growler) and a well-edited selection of craft cocktails, it also stays true to its East Coast roots by carrying a selection of quite fun Foxon Park sodas from New Haven. Check out the White Birch soda, a light and less-cloying version of a traditional root beer.
In addition to tasty pizza, we had absolutely the cutest server ever. She was helpful and informed and clearly digs working there. After we had a chance to devour a few slices, she came to check on us and find out what we thought of the pizza. We raved about how tasty it was, and she blushed and gave an adorable Richard-Gere-Namaste-Humble-Warrior kind of bow, so taken with our compliments was she. Jeez, lady, you didn't make the pizza, but I love your passion for your product.
Though it may be missing from the signage, URBN gets an “A” for its unique spin on everyone's favorite pie.
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