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Be warned – there is no return! One bite of pizza from Santarpia, and pizza will never be the same.

Florentines were thrilled when the skilled pizzaiolo from Palazzo Pretrorio in San Donato abandoned his ovens to open his eponymous restaurant in downtown Florence. The new place sparkles, a long galley dining room decorated with mosaic tiles and an open kitchen on one side shows a clear effort to let the devoted fans pay their tributes to the pizzaiolo. At the same time, it helps put the chef in direct touch with the guest, and it is clear that he and the rest of the staff make a clear effort to be friendly and conversational with the guests.

Food comes to the table quickly. In a nod to his new setting, the chef introduced Pizza Fritto con Lampredotto; paying tribute to the classic Florentine street food, and serving a fried pizza topped with Lampredotto from the famed chef Luca Cai of Osteria Tripperia Il Magazzino.  It comes with a side dish of the meat braising liquid and herb flecked salsa verde. The pizza itself is a thick slab of golden fried dough, rich and satisfying. While it is an interesting novelty, good enough on its own, it doesn’t measure up to the exacting finesse of the stellar pizzas which come out of the wood burning ovens.

Pizza begins with the dough, and this dough began 48 hours ago, allowing for a long natural leavening before being stretched into your pizza. In clear Neapolitan style it forms a thick, chewy and flavorful crust, a substantial base for whatever goes on top. Thin crust it is not!

The classic Margarita is exemplary; a thin layer of tomato purée has the pure virgin flavor of fresh tomatoes (no herbs, no long cooking,) there is a dotting of fresh mozzarella, a few sprigs of fragrant basil and a drizzle of Tuscan olive oil. Perfect! And while the Margarita is definitely a “must” some of the non-traditional pizzas make a strong argument for entry into the culinary cannon, especially the Crema Di Zucca (Pumpkin) where the sweet creamy pumpkin purée is offset by fatty, flavorful guanciale and a spare dash of mozzarella. The sweet and savory combination is unorthodox, but it works. There is also always one or two special seasonal pizzas of the day.

Panuozzo on the other hand, has a thin crispy crust, it’s exterior giving away to a hefty filling of sweet oven roasted bell peppers, eggplant and the fatty richness of pure Tuscan sausage, practically raw, still pink and full of sweet porky flavor. Don’t be deterred by the color, this sausage has a freshness of flavor that makes it something truly special. The sandwich could almost feed two, if it wasn’t so good.

While pizza is clearly the focus, the menu includes a few fried starters to stave of hungry appetites while your pie awaits its turn in the oven.  But it’s better to save room for the pizza, which are more than ample, and the incredible Pastiera which has a much needed lightness after everything else. The classic Neapolitan dessert gets a much more refined touch with a thin sweet tart crust, light ricotta custard that has a nearly soufflé like texture, a wisp of candied orange peel and just a token of plump wheat berries.

You come for the pizza, and then stay for the pie.

Largo P. Annigoni, 9c, Florence; Tel: +39 055 245829. Closed Tuesday. Dinner only.

Signature Dishes: Pizza Fritto con Lampredotto (Fried Pizza with  Lampredotto)
Get It!: Pizza Margherita (Pizza with Fresh Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella), Pastiera

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