To understand the power of pizza in this country, one need only consider it’s the only specific type of food that has its own Washington, D.C., lobbying group. And for good reason: Americans reportedly eat 41 million slices of pizza on any given day from more than 73,000 pizza joints across the country.

So, with this in mind, a pizza place must offer something truly special to stand out from the pack. This “something” is what separates Pizzetta 408, the newest eatery at downtown San Jose’s SoFA Market. The restaurant serves up truly authentic Neapolitan pizza from a wood-fired brick oven, which was custom built for head chef, owner and San Jose native Dave Perez. His passion for making the perfect pie started as a dream in his backyard, where he made pizzas for friends and relatives. The venture finally came to fruition after Perez attended the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) school in Naples, Italy. It was here that Perez’ pizzas were judged “best in class,” and he walked away with the revered title of “Maestro.”

For those not familiar, AVPN is an international nonprofit that “seeks to cultivate the culinary art of making Neapolitan pizza.” The standards are lofty, and they certify every nuance of making the perfect Neapolitan pizza-from the type of flour (doppio zero) and oven temperature (900 degrees F) to the tomatoes used (San Marzano) and even the size of the pie (no more than 11 inches).

The hallmark standard is the margherita, and its beauty is found in the simplicity of toppings: fresh mozzarella, basil, tomato sauce and a dash of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Pizzetta’s margherita ($14) is absolutely top-notch. The fresh, melted richness of the cheese, well-balanced sauce and the EVOO made for a nice, light finish. The standout feature, however, is the soft, chewy dough that has a nice touch of smoke and char from the red-hot oven.

Unwilling to ignore the rest of the menu, we also ordered the Prosciutto e Arugula ($15), which featured smoked provola cheese along with prosciutto and arugula. Despite having no sauce on this pie, it really worked as the smoked provola was simply incredible when combined with the salty prosciutto and bitter, peppery flavor of the arugula.

Pizzetta also serves beer on tap from Hermitage Brewery and they’re featuring (what else) a 408 Session IPA ($6.50). Its slightly bitter aftertaste (60 IBU) and golden grassy notes were excellent accompaniments to their stellar pies.

All the accolades might look good when displayed on a wall, but in the case of Pizzetta 408 the acclaim actually translates to the plate.

Pizzetta 408
387 S First St #104, San Jose.