THE REAL THING: The pizza at Terrone comes with a seal of Italian approval.

Not a lot of dishes have an organization dedicated to preserving their historical authenticity. Pizza does, or at least Neapolitan pizza—the original modern version of pizza that came out of Naples, Italy, in the 1800s. The organization, Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, hands out certifications to restaurants all over the world that meet their very specific guidelines as to what constitutes a genuine Neapolitan pizza. Here in the Bay Area, only a handful of restaurants are so certified. One of them, Terrone Pizzeria, a casual upscale joint, was opened a few weeks ago in Palo Alto by three friends, all of whom were born in Southern Italy.

Generally, what defines a true Italian pizza is its lightness. The crust is thinner, the toppings are sparser and the ingredients are all very basic. Rather than the heavy, doughy concoction familiar to Americans, pizza in Italy is considered a light dish that will leave one a little hungry after leaving the dinner table.

To obtain the coveted certification, a restaurant must meet many criteria, such as what ingredients are used, how the pizza is prepared, what kind of oven it’s cooked in and more. Terrone passed all the tests. They knead their dough by hand and let it rise naturally over a 24-hour period before popping it into a brick oven, where it is fully cooked in about 90 seconds. The crust is crispy and almost tortillalike, though still soft. The rising process brings out the naturally complex flavors of the wheat flour, while the brick oven adds a pleasant smoky flavor.

I ordered the Margherita ($14), which is thought to be the original version of the Neapolitan pizza. It is made with only tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, olive oil and basil. Nothing else. Terrone uses whole basil leaves and lightly distributes the cheese and tomato sauce, so that you can taste each ingredient in each bite.

Slightly different is the Terrone ($15), which combines tomatoes, mozzarella and spicy sausage. The sausage, which wasn’t especially spicy, had a subtle flavor that accented the tomato and cheese rather than overpowering it. Many of these ingredients—the tomatoes, cheese, flour—are imported from Italy, another qualification required to obtain the certificate.

Terrone also offers pastas, entrees, salads and small plates. The pastas are all fresh and handmade in the kitchen. I tried the Scialatielli ($17), a thick, rich pasta cooked with eggs and served with porcini mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, rosemary and olive oil. Like the pizza, it was very simple and didn’t leave me with a heavy feeling. For salad, I chose the grilled romaine ($10). It consisted of two long heads of grilled romaine with avocado and tomatoes, and a very tasty lemon dressing.

Terrone Pizzeria
448 S. California Ave., Palo Alto; 650.847.7577