I imagine that there's fan fiction out in the world that describes in detail what would happen if a rag-tag crew of Pittsburghers traveled across the Atlantic and settled onto the fine country of Italy. They'd call their vibrant land "Yintaly" and their flag would flutter in Southern Italian Wind boasting colors of black, gold, green, red and white. And their pizzas and pizzerias would be modeled after the fine bar/pizzeria of Villa Reale in downtown Pittsburgh.
Villa Reale is a hidden ball of mozzarella in downtown Pittsburgh, nestled next to Weiner World on Smithfield Street, it's an unassuming pizza parlor. When you first enter you notice how unbelievably long this building it. There's a bar in front of the ovens that extend as far as Italy until it opens up into a dining room. I would not be surprised if the blueprints show that this building is modeled off of Italy's boot-shape.
Me and my pizza crew sat in the dining room, but I'm interested in going back for the bar experience. I have a hunch that that's the "right" way to enjoy Villa Reale because you can sip beer and get a front-row seat for the pizza making. That's a tough combo to find in Pittsburgh, but a huge plus for making the trip to Villa Reale.
My pizza crew had two pizzas: a sausage and green pepper and a half-plain half-capicolla. These pizzas may have been made on opposite sides of the world by random strangers. The plain/capicolla had enough cheese for four pizzas while the sausage/green peppers was slice after slice of perfection. How do they do it? How do they churn out such different pizzas?
It sounds like a bad thing, but to me it's comfort. With the boom of artisan pizzerias, it's somewhat refreshing to be served a gloopy moat of cheese and a crisp, crunchy medley of sausage and peppers. It adds an extra layer of mystique and yes, of course we ate all but one slice.
Villa Reale's pizza is the kind of pizza that has a crust that is so volatile that some parts may shatter in your mouth and others are soft and chewy. It's the phenomenon that happens when air pockets form in the crust leaving behind bites that explode like landmines. The slight imperfections of this pizza is what makes it so classic and Pittsburgh-esque.
I'd put Villa Reale up there with one of my lifetime favorites, Mama Lucia's. I love the mix of Italian heritage and Pittsburgh and they created an odd mish-mash of an environment that you can only find in Downtown Pittsburgh.
Next time I go to work on my Pittsburgh x Italy crossover fan fiction, I'll do it at the Villa Rae bar. The perfect environment to chat with surly waiters and eat the finest food Italy has to offer. This is pizza that pairs well with a cold Miller High Life or whatever light beer of your choosing.
As a bonus, try to find the photo of a (younger?) Mona Lisa in front of a painting of the Mona Lisa. This really is the icing on the tiramisu.