Every day between 2:30 and 3 p.m., about an hour before Pizzaluté Woodfired Pizza & Tap Bar in Perdido Key opens, owner Stefano Hugh fires up his dome brick oven, shipped straight from Naples, Italy.
It’s a labor of love for Hugh, who believes that after 30 on-and-off years in the restaurant business and multiple trips around the world that oven is the gateway to the best possible style of pizza.
Wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza is what Hugh stands by, it’s what he’s bullish about and it’s what Pensacola and Perdido pizza lovers can try now at the new restaurant at 13160 Sorrento Road.
“Everything (in here) is from Naples. The oven, the prep table is from there, the flour comes from there,” Hugh said. “The San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce come over there. Everything is pure, and that’s the key. The old way, like they made it 200 years ago.”
Once the oven at Pizzaluté reaches its sweet spot of about 900 degrees, it produces three authentic Neapolitan — or “Napoletana” — pizza styles: the Margherita, the marinara and the focaccia bread.
The menu is small, and that’s by design. The new pizza shop owner said he and his staff want to focus on the item that pulls most people into their parking lot — the pizza.
“This concept is a little different,” said Hugh, who on his menu asks that customers refrain from requesting topping changes. “It’s simpler. We have less items. We do pizza and we do it right.”
Pizzaluté wood fires more than a dozen pizza options, and also makes a handful of salads and sweets to round the menu out.
Hugh is a native of Lugano, Switzerland, which is an Italian-speaking town in the southern part of the country. He said the close proximity of Naval Air Station Pensacola to his new restaurant has ushered in some nostalgic reviews from satisfied customers in the short time the pizzeria has been open this summer.
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“With the Navy here, all these Navy boys that have been over to Italy, they come over here and say, ‘Man, this tastes just like it does over there,'” Hugh said.
Since opening at the end of June in place of a former gas station on Sorrento Road, Hugh said his pizzeria has had to withstand the same challenges as any new restaurant opting to open during the COVID-19 pandemic. His standard capacity of 72 people is whittled down, for now, to 49, and he’s still working on aesthetic upgrades like outdoor signage.
But one facet of Pizzaluté that’s up and running at full capacity currently is the beer wall. The self-serve beer and wine bay features 21 beer taps and three wine taps.
“I’m trying to get good craft beers, good German beers,” Hugh said. “Beers from micro breweries, we got beers from Pensacola Bay Brewery, Fairhope. Just like with the pizza I want these to be high quality.”
Local, regional and national craft beer options flow through most of the 21 beers. To gain access to the beer wall, customers show their ID to the cashier and give them their credit card. In return, customers receive a card used to swipe above the beer taps.
There’s a rack near the wall to deposit used glasses and a counter to grab clean ones, and drinkers are charged by the ounce. When ready to cash out, just take the card back to the cashier to pay the tab.
“The way this works is, Italy and Munich,” Hugh said Wednesday, pointing first to the dome pizza oven and work station and then pointing across the restaurant to the beer bay. “Since I grew up spending 14 years in Munich, the beer had to be there.”
Have a look at the beer and wine list for yourself, here.
Soon, Hugh said, a small selection of outdoor seating will be available to the west of the restaurant’s entrance.
Pizzaluté is open six days a week, from 4-9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Dine-in and curbside are both currently available.
Jake Newby can be reached at [email protected] or 850-435-8538.