Let's Eat for $7.70: Hot and cold perfection in Porta Alba's affogato

July 19, 2011 - click for full article

There are a few places in Madison that serve affogato…..But to experience affogato at a good price without watching a Justin Bieber video on the JumboTron, head to Cafe Porta Alba at Hilldale, where the price is as wallet-friendly as the surroundings are sophisticated. Porta Alba's affogato is a very reasonable $4.50. It features your choice of gelato flavors, although it's not recommended to choose the fruit-based options for submersion in espresso. The day of my visit, the contenders were chestnut and fior di latte, which is a basic creamy-vanilla flavor — the blank canvas of gelato (I went for the chestnut). Along with your dessert at Porta Alba, you also get a bit of theatricality: a stemmed glass dish of gelato is delivered to your table alongside a small metal pitcher containing hot Lavazza espresso. While you watch, the server pours the steaming liquid over the cold ice cream before letting you have at it.

Café Porta Alba - Madison, WI

April 10, 2011 - click for full article

Neapolitan pizza is the oldest style of pizza, and the trendiest. Over the last few years many great (some authentic, some not so much) Neapolitan pizzerias have popped up all over the place. Vincenzo Pugliese, the owner, did not open Cafe Porta Alba because it was trendy, though. He did it because he is passionate about pizza-- opening his own pizzeria has been a goal he has been working towards for most of his life. And he (and his excellent staff) still work hard every day to maintain their excellent level of quality. I can honestly say I've never had a bad meal here (and we've eaten here at least 75-100 times. Seriously.)

No matter how you slice it, conflicts over pizza preferences may never be settled by Chris Martell

March 28, 2010 - click for full article

No pizzeria in Madison has fanned the flames of this debate as much as Cafe Porta Alba with its wood-fired oven. Owner Vincenzo Pugliese, a native of Naples, Italy, makes classical Neapolitan pizza, and has the certification to prove it. Seating is tight in his restaurant at Hilldale Shopping Center, so it's easy to eavesdrop on the arguments, which tend to sound like this: "I hate this. There's hardly any topping" on one side; "I love this. The crust is great and there aren't goopy toppings" on the other. Pugliese urges Americans to approach Neapolitan pizza with an open mind, and without Pizza Pit prejudices. He explains that his kind of crust, made from expensive, slow-milled flour imported from Italy and baked for 90 seconds, is supposed to be "crispy crunchy outside and soft inside, so you can fold it without it cracking - like a book."

Pizza Partisans - Isthmus Dining Review by Linda Falkenstein

April 22, 2010 - click for full article

This was the pie that felt the most like the ingredients had just migrated to the top of the crust directly from a garden. And that was a pizza ordered at the tail-end of February. The sauce is made from San Marzano tomatoes and little else, and has a warm, simple, direct tomato flavor and a most subtle tang. The cornicione, the part of the crust that has no sauce or toppings on it, is wider than usual here and slightly chewy…..Thanks to the fresh mozzarella and leaves of basil, the classic margherita has flavor that spreads across the whole pie - nothing is overdone here, or out of balance. The new cafe site at Hilldale has a sleek, upscale atmosphere; it's the most stylish pizzeria in town.

Pizza by the rulebook: Café Porta Alba's pies and their not-quite-Neapolitan rivals

January 27th, 2010 - click for full article

Pizza's often the kind of food people reach for when they don't want to think too hard about what they're eating, but at least one group of sticklers from the old world insists on having it just so. Though only a few dozen U.S. pizzerias have the license from the Vera Pizza Napoletana, which officially sanctions authentically made Neapolitan pizza, one of them is in Madison...

Café Porta Alba is reborn at Hilldale from The Isthmus by Erin Hanusa

January 8th, 2010 - click for full article

Café Porta Alba's new iteration has a different ambiance from its snug, cave-like former location on Butler Street. Now situated in a corner spot on Hilldale's restaurant row, it has floor-to-ceiling windows and feels less intimate than the old space. But it's still warm and inviting. Apart from a flat-screen TV showing old Italian movies, there's not much to distract your eye from the pièce de résistance: the enormous, red-tiled pizza oven. This oven is the reason you are here: The $12,000 beauty was made in Italy and will cook your pizza perfectly in only 90 seconds at 900 degrees...

New Location, but same glorious oven-fire pizza at Café Porta Alba - from 77 Square (Wisconsin State Journal) by Chris Martell

November 29, 2009 - click for full article

Cafe Porta Alba closed its doors on North Butler Street last spring, and recently reopened in a slightly larger space, with seating for 58, at Hilldale Shopping Center, across from Sundance Cinemas.

Its centerpiece is a new $12,000 wood-fired brick oven with an arched terra cotta ceiling, the same design as the oven discovered in the ruins of Pompeii.

It was built in Italy by one of the top three makers of Napoletana ovens in the world, and chef-owner Vincenza Pugliese said it’s a major upgrade from the 3,000-pound oven at the old place, which couldn’t be moved because it was cemented to the floor. The oven heats to 900 degrees in 20 minutes and bakes pizza in 90 seconds.

The pizza menu remains the same as before, but four pasta and two gnocchi entrees have been added, as well as a panini selection...

The Daily Page - Raphael Kadushin

…Now you don’t have to go to Naples to experience the real thing. Cafe Porta Alba, bases its reputation on its fidelity to the Neapolitan ideal, and takes the tradition very seriously. And maybe most important, the cafe has replicated the domed, brick, wood-fired oven (the wood is oak) that is the only vessel real Neapolitan pizzerias employ. That means you can sit at a counter framing the oven, like a pizzeria version of a sushi bar, and watch your personal pizza placed in the oven, by the pizza maker, with a long wooden pallet and pulled out fresh from the flames, though you don’t have to.…this may well be the ultimate pizza. - Christopher Robin

The right to cook and sell the tightly regulated form of the Neapolitan pizza requires not just a deep knowledge of the processes but a license from the Vera Pizza Napoletana…but Madison residents can now sample an official Neapolitan pie at Cafe Porta Alba.
What goes into a typical Neapolitan pie? The products that provide the base for "Pizza Napoletana" are, roughly: dough made from water, salt, flour, and yeast wheat flour, yeast, natural water, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, sea salt, and extra virgin olive oil. Other added ingredients include mozzarella (buffalo milk and otherwise), fresh basil and fresh garlic and oregano. The pizza is then cooked in a hot wood-burning oven.
If you are a pizza lover and have never tried a Neapolitan pie, you simply can't miss this opportunity. While you are there, be sure to finish with a tiramisu, an espresso, and a few minutes with the Italian movie playing on their flat screen--for us, La Dolce Vita.

Madison Magazine - Nancy Christy

The Real Deal:
As with all good pizza with high-quality ingredients, a whole pie isn't much more food than a big sandwich. And simply prepared is simply delicious, so have the Pizza Margherita. It's the real deal--thin, handcrafted crust topped with crushed San Marzano tomatoes and Wisconsin mozzarella, then baked in a brick, wood-fired oven. That's it.

The Badger Herald - Megan McGovern

Specializing in authentic Neapolitan pizza, Café Porta Alba provides a plethora of choices on its gourmet menu. Using San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mushrooms and mozzarella cheese gives this pizza a full flavor that makes its imitators pale in comparison.
Café Porta Alba is obviously not your typical pizza joint…. the first taste of pizza as it was meant to be made will have you crooning Italian love songs.


Join the conversation:    Join us on Facebook Join us on Twitter