The address reads California Avenue, Palo Alto, but the plate of pasta says Italy—the dish’s flavors suggests an Italian nonna’s time-tested recipe.

The word “terún,” in Italian, describes someone who labors on the land—originally a derogatory term used by the Northern region of Italy in reference to the Southern regions, inhabited predominantly by farmers. The word now represents a sense of pride for the new generation of Southern Italian immigrants, such as owner Franco Campilongo.

Since its 2012 launch, Terún has become a popular spot in Palo Alto. The taste, experience and atmosphere is unabashedly Italian: A bar serving Italian wines and cocktails greets diners in the small entranceway. Dining tables sit closely together like a game of restaurant Tetris.

The appetizer menu has a few great dishes for sharing, such as the burrata cheese ($10). The cheese, which arrives atop slices of grilled eggplant, was light, with a deliciously fresh cream flavor—and it happened to spread wonderfully over Terún’s fresh foccacia ($10).

The restaurant’s main attraction is the pizza, for which Terún proudly holds a membership in the American Delegation of the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana—meaning their pizza has a hard-to-obtain pedigree from the homeland. The restaurant cooks its pizzas in a wood-fired oven and prepares them with just a handful of gourmet ingredients, avoiding any topping overload.

On a recent visit I enjoyed the traditional Margherita ($14) with San Marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, basil and olive oil. The crust was not as crisp as I had hoped, but the fresh flavors of tomato sauce and basil made for a heavenly pie. On a previous visit I tried the San Daniele ($20) with prosciutto, arugula, cremini mushrooms, shaved parmesan and a sprinkle of truffle oil. On this occasion, the crust was crisp from edge to the center—a perfect platform for the pungent truffle oil, zesty arugula and salty prosciutto. The combination could have me returning week after week for another slice.

From the selection of pasta dishes I ordered the homemade Cavatelli pasta ($17) in a simple beef stew with onions and a strongly herbal tomato sauce. Though it may look like plain pasta in red sauce, this was seriously something else. Intense flavors of rosemary and thyme beautifully enhanced the stew’s richness. A dash of salty parmesan cheese rounded out this enjoyable “farmhand” comfort food.