, Salem, MA


May 28, 2014

Beverly pizzeria's the real deal

BEVERLY — You could say Prides Piccola Napoletana at 202 Rantoul St. is the real deal when it comes to serving up authentic Neapolitan pizza.

In the corner, there’s a handcrafted, 10,000-pound wood-fired pizza oven imported last year from Naples, Italy. The pizza is made from imported Italian ingredients: Caputo flour and La Fiammante tomatoes.

And for the next three weeks, the pizza is being made by master pizzaiolo Michele Langella, whose late father crafted the oven in Naples.

The heart of the pizzeria, said Prides Restaurant Group owner Michael Magner, is the oven, which can cook a pizza in 90 seconds at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Its base contains black volcanic sand from Mt. Vesuvius.

It’s the last of its kind, Magner said, built by the late, great pizza maker Antonio Langella of Naples. He was the official pizza maker for Caputo flour. He’s built more than 100 ovens, most of which are in Europe and Japan, Magner said. There are only five in the United States — two in San Francisco, two in New York and “one in good old Beverly, Massachusetts,” Magner said.

How did Magner, who grew up in Shrewsbury and was a 2007 business and marketing graduate of Endicott College, wind up baking authentic Italian pizza on Rantoul Street?

The answer involves the real estate meltdown, a love story and a great pizza maker in Naples.

After college, Magner started out selling real estate and even worked for an agency on Beacon Hill. He invested in real estate websites, but then the housing bubble burst in 2007. He realized he needed to invest in something with some cash flow.

With no experience in the food service industry, he bought Prides Deli in Prides Crossing five years ago in April.

His grandmother, he said, who knows her way around an Italian kitchen, told him: “Michael, you don’t get up before 11 a.m., you will never be able to own a pizza place.”

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