Diavola serves up authentic Neapolitan-style pizza with fresh ingredients
Writer & Photographer / Angie Trusty
A friend of mine, Linda, told me about Diavola several months ago. Her daughter lives near the 54th & Monon shops. Linda and her family enjoyed the nice evening walk to the restaurant and shared several different pizzas. Although she highly recommended I try Diavola, I wasn’t too eager at first. After all, there are several good pizza places in town. I finally decided to take Linda’s advice and see if the pizza at Diavola could hold its own against the other pizzerias.
I arrived early for dinner — 5 p.m. on a Tuesday — and had the opportunity to talk to the owner, Mohey Osman. I was impressed with his passion for finding the best ingredients and unwillingness in cutting corners. I don’t know of another pizzeria around that goes through such lengths to ensure quality and authenticity.
“The ingredients speak for themselves. No frozen dough here, that’s for cheaters,” Mohey says.
Diavola takes an inventive twist on the classic Middle Eastern salad, tabouli, by using cauliflower instead of the traditional grain, bulgur. Cauliflower diced into the size of rice is combined with diced tomato, cucumber and basil, then lightly dressed with red wine vinegar and topped with brilliant red, roasted, diced beets. The combination of crisp, fresh vegetables is a perfect balance of colors, flavors and texture.
The shrimp penne dish at Diavola is tossed in a Pomodoro cream sauce made from canned Italian tomatoes picked at the height of their freshness. The ridges in the penne act as little cradles to help the sauce cling to the pasta, delivering savory sauce with each bite. It’s topped with shaved parmesan and red pepper flakes. This traditional Italian comfort food is a superb option if you’re not in the mood for pizza.
The star of the show is the pizza, and the star of the pizza is the Neapolitan-style crust. Only a few ingredients are needed for the handmade dough: Caputa 00 flour from Naples, sea salt and water. To obtain the dense flavor from the yeast, the dough fermentation takes two to three days. The hand-tossed dough only takes about 90 seconds to cook in the high heat, huge Marra Forni domed pizza oven. The result is a perfectly cooked 13-inch crust with a cornicione (outer rim) that balloons slightly, crisp on the outside and bubbly chewy bready texture on the inside. It’s studded with crispy charred black spots. The center of the crust is thinner and has a soft and elastic heart. Just the way it’s made in Naples and the perfect foundation for the ingredients which will adorn the crust.
On a crust topped with homemade garlic white sauce and fresh mozzarella, large paper-thin slices of La Quercia prosciutto and a handful of fresh arugula are piled for the Parma pizza. The fresh, crisp peppery bite of the arugula is the perfect complement to the salty cured prosciutto.
A slight sweetness of the tomatoes in the red Pomodoro sauce spooned atop a thin crust shined through savory flavors of roasted vegetables and melty fresh mozzarella in the Contadina. A perfect tasty balance of roasted bell peppers, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, roasted mushrooms and fresh torn basil almost made me forget there was no meat on this pizza.
What sets Diavola apart from the other pizza places in town is the owner’s insistence in using only the highest quality ingredients and not straying from the correct way to make authentic Neapolitan style pizza. Diavola’s surpasses the typical “good” pizzeria, it’s outstanding.
As stated on the menu “hand stretched 13” pies with Caputo flour and a whole lotta love.” I now have a “whole lotta love” for Diavola.