About midway down the 13th Street business district, which serves as the bustling core of the Hyde Park neighborhood in Boise's North End, is the Navarra Building—a facade of high windows; rough-hewn block; and cool, modern colors. Inside is aptly named North End Pizza, a new addition to the block that has quickly carved out a niche in the community.
On a recent visit, about two weeks after the place opened, North End Pizza was humming with a mix of families and weekday lunch hour traffic.
Diners sat at a mix of high- and low-top tables, booths and seats along the large wraparound bar. The interior aesthetic is spare but comfortable—ample natural light fills the front of the house, while a skylight gives the booths in the back an airy feel. The walls are painted a warm, understated orange and handful of flatscreen TVs hang unobtrusively around the space.
The semi-industrial feel lent by concrete floors and mix of Steampunk-y light fixtures is lessened by the lovingly shellacked blonde wood table tops and slats of light-colored distressed timber that make up the back wall of the bar.
North End Pizza seems to have come into being with a fully formed menu, featuring hand-tossed pizzas, sandwiches and calzones ($10-$11) a range of salads, starters and lunch menu items ($3-$9) create-your-own pizza options in 12-inch ($13) and 18-inch ($17) sizes; and three "charity case" pizzas, a portion of proceeds from which go to local nonprofits Washington Elementary PTA, The Foothills Learning Center and the North End Neighborhood Association. Dessert items include cannoli ($6) and spumoni ($4).
In a nod to its community bent—and Hyde Park's historic neighborhood pride—the hand tossed pizzas are named for surrounding businesses, including the Parrilla (featuring Roma tomato, mushroom, spinach, black olive, red onion and roasted garlic), The 13th Street Pub (barbecue chicken, red onion and jalapeno) and Vince's (breakfast bacon, Canadian bacon, Italian sausage, pepperoni, salami and Mama Lil's peppers). Likewise, the sandwich options draw their names from favorite Boise Foothills trails.
The bar has 15 beers on tap, including a mix of locals, micros and, charmingly, Rainier; along with a selection of three draft wines and nine available by the glass.
An order of house made turkey meatballs with marinara ($7) comes presented on an herb-dusted plate, the orbs perfectly coated with sauce and a cap of melted mozzarella.
Eschewing beef or pork, the finely ground turkey was rich and savory without the heaviness commonly associated with the dish. The sauce was chunky and fresh but far from overapplied—a much appreciated nod to restraint shared by the mozarella. When finished, the plate was clean, unlike at many pizza joints where a serving of meatballs ends in an archipelago of uneaten blobs of sauce floating in a sea of oil.
The portions were spot on for an appetizer and the warming, soul satisfying flavor was well worth the price.
A 12-inch Sun Ray ($17) came with artichoke heart, roasted garlic and goat cheese, topped with sun dried tomato on an olive oil base. North End Pizza serves its pies perched on a wire stand, armed with a hefty metal pizza cutter.
The ingredients were well apportioned, with big hunks of artichoke and sun-dried tomato covering all eight slices. The all-important crust was browned to perfection and took up just the right amount of real estate.
Underpinning the artichokes and tomatoes—the latter which appeared to have actually be dried by the sun, rather than fried by it—was a buttery layer of goat cheese and garlic. It would be easy for that combination to become overpowering, but the zest of the artichoke cut the richness, and the olive oil notes made both the crust light and airy while lending a bit of its own zing.
As with the meatballs, the Sun Ray's delicate balance of portion and flavor made for a deeply satisfying meal that was clearly crafted with more than the usual amount of attention to detail.
While a trip to North End Pizza could get spendy in a hurry—the least expensive hand tossed pies on the menu go for $17 while the most expensive, like the 18-inch NENA (North End Neighborhood Association) "charity case," costs $27—you're paying for high quality 'za in a well tailored space that feels like it has always had a place in Hyde Park.