IN QUEENS: BELLA VIA (47-46 Vernon Blvd. at 48th Ave.; 718-361-7510)
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Five years ago, when Sal Polito, the chef and an owner of Bella Via, stood admiring the view of the Manhattan skyline from the street outside his brand new Long Island City restaurant. Suddenly, he had the perfect name for his new venture: Bella Via, or "beautiful way."
Life's been beautiful ever since at this family-run restaurant – sister-in-law Vicki and her son, "Little Sal," 23, are always on hand. They toss some thin-crusted beauties that hold some of the best and most imaginative toppings around.
"We use the real San Marzano tomatoes," says Polito, expertly slicing up one of his pies for a diner to sample. "This makes a big difference in the color and flavor of our sauce."
That well balanced sauce is the base for a number of delicious pies, including the regular margarita, which is scattered with fresh mozzarella and slivered basil, as well as a terrific arugula and prosciutto pizza. For this one, a pie crowned with mounds of peppery fresh arugula is tossed with slivers of prosciutto. Another winner is the four seasons, or quattro stazione, in which each quarter of the pie has different toppings like mushrooms, artichokes or ham.
What sets this pizza apart from many others is the crisp crusts – and that everything is super-fresh.
"All our pizza is cooked in a brick oven," Vicki Polito says. "And nothing is mass-produced. We make our dough every day. The cheese is handsliced with a knife, the old fashioned way. Everything is fresh done to order so people may have to wait a bit to have their pie."
Since it tastes so good, no one's complaining about the wait. Just ask voter Jay Meehan. "Best brick oven pizza in New York!" he emailed. It's a sentiment echoed by the legions of fans who come here from all points of the city to order Polito's perfect pies.