The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Una Pizza Napoletana Is Kind Of Worth It

This entry originally took place on February 14.

Update (7/20/09): UPN has closed. Motorino will be moving into its place.

Greg jumps
Greg doesn't come with the pizzeria.

Although reliable sources have told me for years that Una Pizza Napoletana churns out the best pizza in New York City, I've avoided going because it's infamously expensive, has a love-it-or-hate-it reputation (partially influenced by its high prices and unaccommodating hours of Thursday through Sunday after 5 p.m.) and no one has really pushed me to go there. But when Alex visited me about three weeks ago, I used his presence and vegetarian diet as an excuse to try it out.

How expensive could a pizza be? According to this review on Slice, the pies were $16.95 each in 2004. Today they're $21 each. On the "pizza pricing" scale it sounds like a lot, but on the "nice Saturday night dinner" scale, it's not likely to give your wallet reason to commit suicide. Hell, it was a Valentine's Day (not that any of us were celebrating—at least three of us were single).

Still, $21 for a single serving pie? They mean business. It may look simple, but if the three-panel "menu" has anything to say about it, it's not. I say "menu" because the actual listing of dishes only takes up half of one panel:

  • Marinara: San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, fresh garlic, fresh basil, sea salt.
  • Margherita: San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil, sea salt.
  • Bianca: Mozzarella di bufala, extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh basil, sea salt.
  • Filetti: Fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, sea salt.

The section explaining their dough is twice as long as that.

The rest of the "menu" gives a quick primer on the history of pizza and explains how they pride themselves on using the best ingredients—buffalo mozzarella, extra-virgin olive oil from Southern Italy, Sicilian sea salt, fresh garlic, fresh cherry tomato, fresh basil—and baking their pizzas in a wood-fired brick oven. it ends with, "Taste may be an opinion, but quality is a fact." If you think it tastes like crap, you can suck it—the ingredients are QUALITY!

The four of us—Alex, Sophie, Greg, and me—ordered three Margheritas and one Filetti. (I can't imagine getting the marinara unless I hated cheese. Isn't cheese at least half of the joy? Sure, the customer could also be cheese intolerant, but...but...but. LIVE WITH THE PAIN, I DON'T KNOW.) The Filetti was my idea; anytime I can get a pizza with cherry tomatoes instead of sauce, nothing else exists. My mind fills with dancing images of bisected, juice-oozing tomato babies, as evidenced by the loads of cherry tomato-ed pizzas I ate in Rome. It's a shame this topping isn't more popular over here.

There she is.

Of course, I liked the Filetti. It combined many good things into one mouthful: sweet buffalo mozzarella, sweet lil' tomatoes, sweet basil, sweet olive oil, and surprising bits of sweet sea salt on a thin, slightly chewy crust—nicely puffed up at the edge—that tasted of...dough. You know. Wheatiness. And when I describe everything as "sweet," I mean subtle, like being caressed by the fuzzy, nubbly ears of baby bunnies sweet, not diabetes sweet.

The only "meh" part was that the pie was soggy in the center where all the cheese and tomato juices convened, thus causing soggy, messy slice tips. Maybe that's how it is; I dunno. Naturally, we sopped up the oil-cheese-tomato sauce with our crusts. Like hell we were going to let that go to waste.

(On a random note, while we were waiting for our pizzas we noticed a woman at a neighboring table who left all her crust behind. A pile. Of crust. Left to perish. Unfortunately, the weight of our appalled words and facial expressions carried to her table and she probably thought we were crazy/rude/assholes. But seriously? You only ate the center of your pizza made with dough that is made in "the oldest and most difficult way," says the menu, and takes two days to complete? Whatever floats your boat. I tried to justify by telling myself that she just had a small stomach.)

Sorry that my pizza descriptions suck. I'm not well learned in the art of pizza. Slice has it all covered anyway; I can't add anything valuable to the chatter.


There's the upskirt. Lots of crispy bits. Carbon-y crispy bits.

crust tumor

My crust had a tumor.

another margherita

We all liked the Margherita too, of course, pretty much for the same reasons as above but with sweet tomato mash instead of the semi-solid version.

nom nom peeps

I saw that UPN is "kind of worth it" because whether or not you want to pay $21 for a pie depends on how much you like pizza and how valuable a dollar is to you. A $21 pie isn't small change. I don't mind splurging when I think it's worth it though, and for my first experience I thought it was worth it. Will I go back to UPN someday? Probably—just not in the near future.


Una Pizza Napoletana
349 E 12th St
New York, NY 10003


mmmomofoku / March 10, 2009 1:50 AM

It's at times like this when I wish I lived in a place where Pizza Express is the best you can get. Sadness.

But thanks for making my early morning!

James / March 10, 2009 1:59 AM

I've only been to UPN once, and I'll be honest: right after we had finished our pie, my friend and I walked around the corner and had fresh mozz slices at Vinnie Vincenz.

UPN is certainly delicious (that crust! so much personality). It's a shame that I probably will never eat there again because of the huge price tag and the soggy center. The next time I'm in the mood for a high transaction cost pie, I'm headed to Di Fara or Totonno's :D

KT / March 10, 2009 6:44 AM

When the ingredients are high quality, I guess it's okay to charge a few bucks more for a pizza (buffala mozzarella is really a LOT more expensive than regular, isn't it?). If you had to recommend only pizza place for someone visiting NYC for a few days, would you say "Kump" or UPN, or something else??

SuperChomp / March 10, 2009 7:09 AM

I suppose the important part is if the customer can taste the difference. There ain't no point doing something the "oldest, most difficult way" if the outcome is basically the same. You pretty much have to go and see for yourself, even just the once. Yeah, you might end up feeling gypped at the end, but you also might have a new found respect for the process, so I think it's worth it.

Holly / March 10, 2009 9:11 AM

So did it drive you crazy that the same pizza in Italy would've been under $5? Looks absolutely delicious though!

anna / March 10, 2009 11:35 AM

That pizza LOOKS really good, but yeah, $21 is a little steep. Especially for such basic recipes. And it's a shame about the soggy middles - maybe the crust is just too thin or something.

SACRILEGE at the woman leaving her crusts behind, though. I don't get when people do that (and it drives me nuts when my boyfriend does it). I could understand if it wasn't very good crust to begin with, but that crust looks like charred awesomeness.

kathryn / March 10, 2009 12:08 PM

It would be probably be cheaper if he didn't insist on making every single pie himself, or if they were open more days of the week. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, they aren't open for business, but they're in there prepping and making dough.

Jenneke / March 10, 2009 3:32 PM

Nom! At least they know what a marinara is. The pizza places in Holland keep thinking it comes from 'marine'. They throw every piece of seafood they can find on a 'marinara'. Horrible!

And yay for the food porn!

Christina / March 10, 2009 4:34 PM

For the life of me, I've never been able to understand why people don't like the crust. It's just... wrong.

That is expensive, and I'm sure it's delicious, but it probably would be an occasional thing. A delicious occasional thing.

Darrin / March 10, 2009 6:15 PM

Wow, a pizza from NYC that's actually COOKED. I must admit I enjoyed the photo of the blackened underside of a crust. That reminds me of Naples. And comparing that shot to an upskirt: now that's food porn.

piccola / March 10, 2009 10:42 PM

I love marinara -- for me, the crust and sauce are the best parts, and I'm not always hungry enough for lots of toppings or cheese.

But no matter how little your appetite, never leave the crust behind. Seriously. I'd rather wrap it up in a napkin and put it in my purse for later.

EK / March 10, 2009 11:16 PM

I'm not 100% sure but I think that Neopolitan pizza should have a soggy middle. Every time that I've eaten it (in Canada and even on a pizza tour in Naples) it's been like that...

roboppy / March 11, 2009 12:13 AM

mmmomofoku: You're welcome!

James: I was pretty damn stuffed after eating my pizza, heh. :) You guys must've been hungry?

KT: I ...don't know what I'd recommend. But probably not Kump or UPN because neither are NY-style pies. I once brought a friend from out of town (during her first visit to NYC) to an Italian style pizzeria and I probably shouldn't have done that..faaail. On that note, I dunno where I'd bring a friend. I do like Suprema.. :)

SuperChomp: I think you can taste the difference. At least whenever I taste a crappy pizza that doesn't taste like anything, I'm really glad that there's stuff like UPN and Kump around.

Holly: $5 pizzas? I didn't get that in Itatly..waah!

Laura: I was waiting for someone to say that. Haha.

anna: It was awesome. Poor neglected crusts.. :(

Kathryn: I guess it's good to know that the dough is filled with SO MUCH LOOVE! At least I assume it's love.

Jenneke: ..Seriously? That sounds terrible! :( I'd expect a simple tomato mozz crust combo and get some seafood goo? Waah. Maybe you need to be a pizza consultant and set everyone straight. ;)

Christina: The crust thing = sad.

Darrin: Upskirt sounds so normal to me since it just reminds me of pizza. That's probably messed up.


EK: Oo...I guess I am just not a fan of the sog. Doh! If I ate it a lot I could get used to it, perhaps.

parisbreakfast / March 12, 2009 1:35 PM

I have passed that pizza joint from maybe day 1 or when they were constructing it and wondered...
I never got up the nerve to go in and they were always closed anyway.
Now I don't have to.

joey / March 13, 2009 4:25 PM

i have been a long time reader of yours, robyn, and this is my first time commenting. i just wanted to tell you how much i enjoy reading your blog and looking at all the scrumptious pictures.

kudos to you and keep it up :)

-joey from cleveland

p.s. greg's a cutie!

Bonnie / March 13, 2009 10:21 PM

We were disappointed with UPN. Too much money for a pretty enfeebled pizza. It is probably true Neapolitan pizza but meh.

If you want real pizza, come to Trenton's Pappa's or Chic's (De Lorenzo) pizzerias and experience tomato pie, a Trenton specialty. Compared to Una Pizzeria Napolitana, it'll knock your socks off.

roboppy / March 14, 2009 10:42 AM

Amblus: Bwahahahaa.

Matt: Yeah, it's not bad for a night out. Although I like to aim for under $20. Or...UNDER $10!!

Joey: Thanks for reading! And you're not the first person to tell me Greg's a cutie..haha..ok LET'S INFLATE HIS EGO!

Canuck: Another Greg admirer! He'll be so happy.

Bonnie: Ed (serious eats overlord) was explaining to me that Neopolitan pizza has a puddle of oil in the middle, so I guess it's pretty authentic. Woo..hoo! But then he also said that the best pizza isn't found in Naples, haha.

Rec(ession)ipes / March 21, 2009 7:39 PM

Ha, I've been avoiding this place despite the buzz b/c it just seemed to much $$ for pizza, even amazing pizza. Wonder if they're getting less traffic these days what w/ the economy and all!

youngandfoodish / March 29, 2009 3:08 AM

Loved your calling the crust bubbles "tumors." In my pizza experience, the "tumors" around the rim have been benign - and often a good thing (and Luigino's, a legendary pizzeria on W. 48th Street, was famous for them), whereas those over the middle of the pie, where the cheese and sauce should be, are malignant. And I have been indignant when UPN serves sloppily prepared pies with bloated, festering malignant tumors pushing the toppings away. You deal with the short hours, you wait awhile for a table, you pay a fortune and you get tumors.

Erika / April 1, 2009 9:47 PM

Hell no I'm not spending that much money for a tiny pie! It looks delish, though D:
Our favorite NYC pizza place is Luzzo's on 1st between 12th and 13th. It's around the same price for a pizza big enough to really fill up two stomachs!

judy / April 4, 2009 11:39 AM

=o is that u in the picture.. i ... wow your so handsome... 0..0 lol dont mind me =] i wish i had your life.. im stuck in sf eating jook

roboppy / April 4, 2009 5:22 PM

Erika: I've been to Luzzo's before, although not lately. Pretty good!

Judy: I'm not in any of these photos. Also, I'm a girl...hehe..

Pizza Blogger / May 5, 2009 12:21 PM

The pizza is supposed to be soggy in the middle, as it true with authentic pizza Napoletana. Actually, the pizze in Naples are sometimes even "wetter" in the middle than Mangieri's pizzas.

It's a heck of a lot cheaper than flying to Napoli for the real thing. For me, one pizza at UPN costs about $91, when the gas and tolls to get there from Baltimore are included. Worth every penny.

Nice looking blog by the way.....still trying to get the look of mine dialed in. Keep up the good work and I'll be back in NYC to eat at one of your fabulous pizza spots again soon!

roboppy / May 5, 2009 10:02 PM

Pizza Blogger: My boss told me later about the sogginess of authentic pies. But then he made me realize it's okay to not prefer authentic soggy pies, hehe. :)

rosemarie / February 17, 2011 11:13 PM

Luigino's Pizza was my great grand uncle's pizzeria. It was famous for many reasons. The first Pizza place in the theater district, best pizza and a place where all the famous like Tony Bennett would dine at.

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