For a Thanksgiving afternoon snack requested by my wife (membrillo, chorizo, and manchego) I stopped in at Surdyk’s on my lunch hour to pick up the items and noticed famed pizza place, Pizza Nea, was located right across the street. Noted as being one of three top pizzerias in the Twin Cities by James Norton of Heavy Table fame and highly recommended by famed MSP pizza blogger Aaron Landry, I figured it would be a nice pre-holiday lunch spot for me and my coworkers to hit.
I planned an event and we took the bus across the river on a windy Thursday afternoon in December. We arrived at 11:25 just 5 minutes shy of their opening and were the first people seated. Even though we were one of only a handful of tables in the place by the time we left, every last bit of the service was slow. From the delivery of the menus to our bills it took over an hour–something which does not really work on a lunch break. While the service was slow it was extremely friendly, chatty and even crossed into discussions not generally occurring prior to a meal with a suggestion that we all check out PuppyWar coming from my coworker and deflecting the bit of awkwardness experienced following a side statement about enjoying ‘puppy porn’.
There were five of us ordering what ended up being five different pizzas: Boscaiola, Margherita, Caprino e Treccione, Gambero, and a variation of the Marinara with added basil, onion, and sun-dried tomatoes. Each of the pizzas on the menu ranged in price from about $7 to over $13 but included fresh and interesting ingredients. Unfortunately due to the amount of time it took for the pizzas to come out to our table, possibly due to the size of our party, the cheese was overdone and my pizzas were nearly cold.
We’ll start with my margherita which was clearly overdone and presented pretty poorly. Aside from being only slightly more than warm, it was flavorless. I was totally unimpressed and actually a little annoyed that even with the owner present, who was apparently giving the cook direction, they would deliver the pie to me like it was. Inexcusable. While I was totally and utterly disappointed in the Margherita (especially with the claims of greatness which even included Aaron’s comment just two hours later that the pizza was, “spot on.”) the Boscaiola (while still only just barely warm) was edible although not great. I could not at all taste the smoked mozzarella and the mushrooms had minimal flavor. The only other pie I tried was the Gambero which had some tasty and fat shrimp and some bold flavor from the pine nuts. I noted that while my coworker clearly was unimpressed with the pizza I found it to be far better than the two pies I was delivered but I don’t believe that’s saying much. At least one other person in my party noted that while the pizza was ok it certainly wasn’t deserving of the high marks it has received.
Overall I’m guessing this was some sort of Thursday afternoon early lunch fluke but I will openly admit that I can get a cheaper and similar tasting pie just down the street at Punch in only a couple of minutes as opposed to nearly thirty. In fact, to be perfectly honest, being that the owner was on site and watched the pizzas come out of the oven and get delivered to our tables I have to say that I am entirely and totally turned off by the entire ordeal and have no intentions of ever returning. What a shame being that so many people apparently enjoy Nea as much as they do.
Have you ever eaten at Pizza Nea? If so what did you think? What do you order when you go? How do you think it compares to other places nearby such as Black Sheep or Punch? Whatever you have to say about Pizza Nea in Northeast go ahead and comment on as I’d love to here what you have to say.
306 East Hennepin
Minneapolis, MN 55414
See all the pictures from Pizza Nea on Flickr here.