Danbury has finally scored a serious pizzeria and thy name is Stanziato’s Wood Fired Pizza.
Influenced by the simple artisanal approach to pizza-making combined with a belief that “fine-dining is basically dead,” Chef Matt Stanczak decided model his own restaurant on Neapolitan-style pizzerias rooted in Italy and beloved in New York.
What they each share is simple. It’s a devotion to quality ingredients and a passion for pizza-making. “It’s a pizzeria. It’s all about the pizza and making fresh local salads. I want to do those things, and do them really well,” said Chef Stanczak. This approach is pitch perfect for a city in desperate need of a good pizzeria, with a location next to a university campus and in the midst of a bustling commercial area on Mill Plain Road in Danbury.
Stanziato’s best assets are by far the “personal” 12-inch wood fired pies. Three chalkboards hanging above a counter list their seasonal pizza “picks.” The chef’s favorite? The Summer Lovin’. A white pie, brushed with an olive pesto, roasted garlic and cherry tomatoes, finished with extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil. Toss in a variety of seasonal salads, pastas and their popular wings, and the menu makes clear why this four-month-old restaurant has already garnered a dedicated following. Simple and flawlessly executed pizzeria staples.
My first visit to Stanziato’s wood-fired pizza was for a couple of quick take-out pies. A busy week and poor planning coupled with a tip that a new pizza kid had moved into town, and my mind (and dinner) was made up in a flash. I arrived to retrieve my two pies and received careful instructions from the Chef Stanczak.
Do you have a pizza stone? Yes? Good. Slide the pies on the stone for 5 minutes at 500 degrees. Oh, and promise you’ll come back and eat here. I nodded in agreement and promised to return. And I have. And I will again.
Their take-out business is roughly equivalent to their eat-in business. So they want to make sure their pies, each carefully prepped, prodded and fired at 750 degrees, will come out as closely to your experience inside the restaurant as possible and that you’ll return and enjoy them in all their wood fired glory. Stanziato’s does not cut their take-out pies and delivers such precise instructions for this adherence to quality.
For my inaugural order, I decided on a margherita and a red pepperoni pie, which I prepared at home as told. I slid them onto my pre-heated stone, waited about 5 minutes and was greeted with two perfectly round and gorgeous 12-inch piping hot pies. Without even taking a bite, I couldn’t stop staring at their perfect sense of scale and composition. They were textbook. Two bites later, I realized the chef’s take-out disclaimer was not necessary. Not only were these darn good-looking pies, they may just be the best in Danbury.
The tell-tale signs of wood fire are prominent on a Stanzinato pie and make all the difference for a decent crust. A light, crispy char on the crust exterior, paves the way for a soft, pillowy interior giving each pie a terrific density and trademark chew. Fresh sliced mozzarella, herby tomato sauce and large leaves of basil were featured on both pies red pies.
On a recent visit dining-in, we ordered two white pizzas and a salad between three of us. The chopped salad was dressed heartily with their Italian dressing and filled with a variety of greens, chickpeas, carrots and shaved parmigiano. The standout pie was the white prosciutto. A simple base of fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, a drizzle of balsamic and extra virgin olive oil with a smattering of fresh basil, served as the bed for thin slices of prosciutto. Each chewy bite is a was a marriage of salt, yeast and silky mozzarella. Our other pie, a white bacon, was topped with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, garlic, roasted onion, Parmigiano and a hearty helping of finely chopped local bacon. The bacon had a much more defined and welcome punch of salt and fat.
Eating in at Stanziato’s isn’t a must, but it’s fun and worth it. Chances are you’ll also see Chef Stanczak wielding a peel chatting up customers or instructing the take-out orders. Stanczak trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and has worked for the last decade both private chefing and for restaurants in New York City and Westchester County but now calls Danbury home.
Stanczak’s contemporary take on on the classic Neopolitan pizzeria is a refreshingly simple approach for a town in need of good food and a passionate chef who can share a lesson or two about how to prepare and appreciate artisanal food.
And thanks to my poor meal planning my evening was saved, and a wood fired pizza discovery was made.
Stanziato’s Wood Fired Pizza is located in Danbury, CT on 35 Lake Avenue Ext. 203.885.1057 Hours: Closed Monday; Tuesday through Thursday 12 to 8:30; Friday and Saturday 12 to 9:30; and Sunday 4 to 9:30 pm.
Update, November 2013: Stanziato's has expanded into the space next door to offer more seating as well as a cozy and well stocked bar that features some really terrific beers on tap. Their menu offerings have also grown to include items such as wood-fired tacos, mussels and calzones.
(Photography by Amy Kundrat)