Since we did takeout, we can’t speak to the whole dining experience but we can certainly cover some basic thoughts. My partner stopped in to get our order and remarked that the space was warm and inviting. She also said it was packed. Clearly I wasn’t the only one stalking the space. She also noted that owner Vincenzo Pugliese was in the house giving every dish coming out of the kitchen a thorough look over.
While the pizza was the star, we did start with two salads. The caprese had amazing tomatoes for this time of year and the balsamic vinegar was of outstanding quality. The fresh mozzarella however did not hold up as well to the other ingredients. The bresaola salad on the other hand was a four star knockout. Again it was simple but the key was the balance of top quality ingredients. The bresaola itself was just as it should be. The paper thin dried beef had the color of a beet and a salty flavor that was only accentuated by the shaved parmigiano. As for the pizza, I always have a margherita pie on my first visit to a Neapolitan pizza joint. The same fresh mozz that was a disappointment in the caprese salad was a stand out on the pie. The crust was perfectly salty and cooked to perfection in its 900 degree oven. We also tried the salsiccia pizza with their wood oven sausage and mushrooms. The sausage was so good that while I know that minimal toppings are a trademark of Neapolitan pizza, I was ready to throw that rule out the window. Even the mushrooms were of noticeable quality. The menu also features some pastas and some deserts that I will definitely be back to try.
While some might argue that if you’ve had one Neapolitan pizza you’ve had them all, I find the joy lies in the differences. It is inevitable that comparisons will be made between Café Porta Alba and my other Madison fav, Pizza Brutta. I will say that while a Neapolitan pizza is not intended to travel, Pizza Brutta’s does travel better than Café Porta Alba. On the other hand I must say the sausage from Café Porta Alba is superior. The pies from Café Porta Alba are larger. On the flip side while I know it’s traditional not to slice a Neapolitan pizza, I appreciate that extra step from Brutta. I also love the flatbread that accompanies Brutta’s salads which is something that was missing from Café Porta Alba. Differences between the two places sure, but certainly enough room for both in my stomach. Without a doubt Café Porta Alba has already established a place in my rotation of favorites.
Café Porta Alba, 558 N Midvale Blvd, Madison WI 608-441-0202