To get you in the mood for the ongoing voting in the 2014 Pizza Cup (the Elite 8 gets cut to 4 this evening at midnight), we sent our minions out to patrol the streets for pizza. Here's what they've found:

Giuseppe de Stefano, the pleasantly plump executive chef at La Pizza, says its devotees swear by the Italian style eatery's fresh, authentic toppings. This is especially true for the pizzeria's meatier fare, like the beloved Diavola pie and its coating of grated Italian salami, or the Margherita pon Prosciutto Parma Prudo, topped with bundles of Parma ham.

But customers with more carnivorous tastes may indeed be missing out on one of La Pizza’s hidden gems: its Lucca Ricotta pumpkin pizza, which boasts a more drool-worthy, sweetly salty flavor. “It is like a fusion pizza,” de Stefano says. “Chinese people are big fans of pumpkin, and they love having it on their pizza.”

With its heavy offerings, La Pizza is not an exercise in prudence: this is a restaurant that very much specializes in indulgence. That is especially true of the Salsiccia Piccante -- spicy sausage pizza -- which is sprinkled with fiery red peppers, or their squid-saturated Fisherman’s Pie. In fact, La Pizza boasts some of the most flavourful pizzas in town. Even its Four Cheese, which sounds generic enough, is in fact quite delightfully tangy.

That decadence is extended to La Pizza’s dishes, the most delicious of which may be the Basic del Golfo or “kisses of the east” which are, in essence, tightly rolled little clumps of dough laced with a layer of cheese and other ingredients (like the strip of savoury ham in the Baci Papri).

La Pizza’s true strong suit is the crusts that its pies are built upon. This dough is carefully cooked just enough to leave a chewy outer layer that is never too crisp, while the inside is so light and fluffy that it almost threatens to melt on one's tongue. It may very well be the best textured crust in Beijing.

That tricky balance between fluffiness and chewiness is attained in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven, which is proudly on display next to the front door of La Pizza’s Solana location.

Vittoria Zhang, who cofounded the restaurant with her husband Miele Gennaro and de Stefano, says the oven was built with bricks from made near Mount Vesuvius in the Gulf of Naples. She adds: “These are very special bricks that get hot quickly, and maintain that temperature very well.”

Zhang adds that Gennaro also runs an importing business which he uses to import freshly peeled tomatoes and other prime ingredients from Italy. De Stefano says he is deeply passionate about preparing La Pizza’s pies, adding that the restaurant’s strengths stem from his and Gennaro’s his upbringing. Or, as de Stefano puts it: “I’m from Napoli, Italy. The same place that pizza was born.”

La Pizza has locations at Solana, Sanlitun and at Soho Shangdu.

Images: Kyle Mullin

Visit the original source and full text: the Beijinger Blog