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DeRusha Eats: Pizza Nea

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The fire burns 750-degrees hot at Pizza Nea in northeast Minneapolis.

But owner Mike Sherwood's carefully-crafted dough is really what makes his pizza special.

"I probably went through 150 pounds of flour before we got the crust the way I wanted it to be," Sherwood said.

Pizza Nea is Neapolitan-inspired; the oven is gas-fired and not wood, and the tomatoes come from California instead of Italy. But the ingredients are incredible, and the crust is perfection.

"When our plates come back to be washed, if there's a bunch of crusts sitting there, we know it's not going well," he said. "But that's never the case."

Sherwood ran a bagel joint before he started pumping out pizzas. For eleven years now, he's been on Hennepin Avenue.

"My employees are awesome," he said.

He's winning over hard-core fans by not burying his flavors under a mountain of cheap cheese.

"I think that a lot of people are going towards the more simple, you know, less ingredients, more flavor and better-quality ingredients," Sherwood said.

The Salsicce is his best seller: roasted pequillo peppers and sausage made by a neighboring restaurant.

"It's nice to have a butcher right next door," he said.

Seventy percent of the menu is vegetarian, like the pizza with roasted red peppers, goat cheese, mozzarella and red onion.

Sherwood says the dough rises in the fridge over three days.

"The key is using a low-protein flour, like a 12 percent, and then using very little yeast so you get a slow rise in the refrigerator," he said.

When he started more than a decade ago, virtually no one was making Neapolitan-style pizza in the area. Sherwood says the explosion of similar restaurants is "unbelievable."

"The more the merrier, I guess," he said. "Competition's good for everybody."

Pizza Nea's dough recipe will never change, nor will the high heat in the dome of the oven that gives it those beautiful black blisters.

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