Punch (Eden Prairie, MN)

By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
Star Tribune West
October 12, 2005

If we could ask one thing of you, it would be this: Stop eating bad pizza. Give up on dreadful bready crusts, pale red sauces, and cheap cheese. Treat yourselves. Go with the good stuff.

The real deal must feature a hand-kneaded crust, no more than 14 inches across, and come out of a wood-fired pizza oven. Every detail about it, from the type of flour used to make the crust to the choice of toppings, is important.

Good pizza is so well-prized in Italy that they've passed laws describing what a true Neapolitan pizza must be. And rightly so; protecting their brand and image is important.

Happily, every detail is as authentic as possible at Punch Pizza. They're one of the few pizzerias outside of Naples, Italy, to be a member of the Vera Pizza Napoletana, an organization that regulates Neapolitan pizza. And it shows. This is not deep-dish Chicago pizza, nor New York flat pizza, but an artisanal, handmade example of culinary perfection.

Capsule review: The pizza is nothing short of spectacular. Order anything you think sounds good. We've never had a bad experience here.

Punch offers a variety of predesigned Neapolitan options, or you can create your favorite from their list of ingredients. The ingredients are fresh and the dough is delicious, so it's hard to go wrong.

We can recommend the Salame e Funghi, which comes with pepperoni, mushrooms, garlic, fontina cheese, and oregano. We also liked the Borgata, with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, eggplant, olives, and basil. The classic Margherita is also delicious, though we like enough basil leaves so there is one on every slice. We also like it with the addition of artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes.

For a true Neapolitan experience, order your pizza wet, with extra tomatoes and olive oil, and with buffalo mozzarella. The buffalo mozzarella is flown in from Italy every week, and despite our general unfamiliarity with water buffalos, we found the cheese has a mild flavor, and is a perfect texture for pizza.

Punch serves four different salads, either as a side dish or a complete meal. They are all tasty, and can be a good meal (the foccacia served alongside is amazing), but we say stick with the pizza.

There's one appetizer: artichoke dip. This is basically the same version you find in restaurants everywhere: artichokes and cheese baked in a ramekin. And there's one dessert: tiramisu mousse.

If you want, you can even have a glass of beer or wine with your pizza.

Punch is geared to the office lunch crowd. You place your order at the counter, and then sit down and wait for your pizza. The pizzas cook for 90 seconds in the 800-degree wood oven, so orders come quickly even when the restaurant is crowded.

If you've been to the Punch in St. Paul, which is a sit-down restaurant, be prepared for some other differences as well. The menu is smaller, with fewer pizza options and without the selection of antipasti. But if there's a particular pizza you remember, they're happy to make you a special order. They'll even make a calzone for you if you ask.

Location:
Prairie Center Drive, Eden Prairie
Phone: (952) 943-9557

Hours:
Sun–Thu: 11am–9pm
Fri–Sat : 11am–10pm

Atmosphere: Lunch-rush lively
Service: Fast and friendly
Sound level: Can be noisy
Recommended dishes: Pizza with your favorite toppings
Prices: $9 large individual pizzas
Children: Bambini pizza available

earlier review: Canoe Bay (near Chetek, WI)
later review: Giuseppe's (New Brighton, MN)
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