Well, nothing like giving away the ending in the title, but the flavor was so remarkable, that I couldn't help myself. So now you know.

Rosso brands itself as a "pizza and mozzarella bar", and although I didn't find mozzarella shots on their menu, the prospect sounded intriguing enough for a visit. On their website, they claim to be passionate about food, wine, and... Soccer?

On the main drag in the sleepy town of Petaluma, about 45 minutes to three days north of San Francisco (depending on traffic), lies a beautiful outdoor patio complete with a courtyard and heat lamps. But let's not get sidetracked, I didn't come here for the fountain.

Petaluma Theater Plaza

Usually when I end up at restaurants like Rosso -- the modern, upper middle class, family-friendly class of establishments, I expect a very predictable breed of pizza. Inoffensive, unmemorable, and fun for the whole family. Especially if you've only come to watch soccer.

Rosso, however, had a special surprise.

Rosso Pizzeria

Sauce

Garlic. Yes, the surprise was garlic. Rosso's sauce is extremely fresh, lightly salted, not too watery, and is not-so-secretly a vessel for whole garlic slices. I've never experienced a sauce so unabashedly gung-ho on garlic, and I absolutely loved it. If only, like seemingly every pizza, there were more of it!

As an added bonus, the sauce is coated in a ring of fresh olive oil. Nothing like that spicy, buttery flavor.

Cheese

For being a self-proclaimed mozzarella bar, the bar was set high. And Rosso delivered. There was a healthy amount of cheese, all of which had a perfect stringiness, oil content, chew, and flavor to it. It turns out they make all of their mozzarella in-house, and though I couldn't find the dairy farm in back, they're certainly doing something right.

The cheese did dry up toward the edges, but the first bite of every slice was a bite of perfection.

Rosso Pizza

Crust

The crust was the only area where Rosso arguably fell short. It had a good amount of chew, and thankfully did not end up becoming a plush limp pillow disaster like many other Neapolitan pizzas, but it still lacked any notable flavor (other than dough), and was a little dry.

Thankfully there was not too much burnt taste, though this could vary. The texture was generally spot on, but the flavor was unmemorable.

Conclusion

Rosso was the comeback kid of strip mall pizza, and delivered far more than almost everybody in its class. The cheese and garlic were clearly the stars of the show, and the sauce was quite delicious. An additional hat tip to the very fresh olive oil and basil that generously topped the pizza as well -- your presence was much appreciated.

With a few improvements to the crust, I think we've found a formidable entrant into the Neapolitan ring. At least in the category that's also good for watching soccer.

Rosso Scorecard