Popular Petaluma Bakery Stellina Pronto Now Serves Up Pizza. And It’s Delicious

The oven is finally fired up at downtown bakery that was originally supposed to be a pizzeria.

For three agonizing years, chef Christian Caiazzo used his custom-built Italian pizza oven as a very expensive shelf.

The hulking, azure-tiled igloo on stilts brought in through the downtown Petaluma bakery’s windows was supposed to be the centerpiece of his pizzeria, Stellina Pronto.

But permitting issues for the wood-fired beast repeatedly stalled, forcing Caiazzo to refocus on what he could bake in traditional ovens — luxurious Italian pastries that routinely draw long lines of customers to the petite cafe. Though his cream puffs and croissants were a hot commodity, the pizza oven and his dreams of a perfect crust were left cold.

In late May, with t’s crossed and i’s dotted with city officials, Caiazzo finally fired up the oven to 800 degrees and created his first pie. And the pizza gods said, behold, these slices are very good.

Epically good, I’d say, with a Neapolitan-meets-New York style crust that holds up to a fold while being thin enough to flop over and drop its toppings if you’re not attentive. Crisp, caramel-colored crusts result from careful timing, good dough and practiced tossing by Caiazzo and co-pizzaiolo Reid Marple.

Toppings range from a simple Margherita ($24) with red sauce, fresh mozzarella, oregano, sea salt and basil to The Rivertown ($28) with sausage and pepperoni, or Fungi ($30) with roasted oyster mushrooms, thyme, mozzarella, Fontina and Parmesan. You’ll find 11 styles, including the best New Haven-style pizza ($34) I’ve had locally, with clams, garlic, chilies, parsley and Pecorino cheese.

On a five-pizza-tasting bender with two friends, we were awed by the simplicity of the Margherita, the briny Puttanesca ($28) with Kalamata olives, anchovies, fried capers and mozzarella, along with the Fungi and New Haven.

Caiazzo, a disciple of Wolfgang Puck and his groundbreaking popularization of gourmet California-style pizzas (though Chez Panisse is credited with its invention), pays homage to the former Postrio with the Wolfgang ($32), with a thin crust topped with cold-smoked salmon, dill creme fraiche, red onion, lemon zest, and orbs of orange salmon caviar (add $10), if you’re doing it right.

Crying for mercy after carbo-loading pizza and warm chocolate chip cookies supplied by Caiazzo’s wife and partner in crime, Katrina Fried, I took home two slices of the nostalgic Gianni ($29) that originated at the couple’s now-shuttered Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes.

Topped with impossibly thin slices of Yukon Gold potato, sauteed garlic, stinging nettles that Caiazzo picks, mozzarella and Fontina, it’s one of the best white pizzas (meaning no red sauce) at the bakery/pizzeria.

The one drawback — there’s not much seating at the cafe, with just a few window-seat barstools and bistro tables outside. Knowing that, Caiazzo has ensured his pizzas will stand up to takeout, and each pie is large enough for two to three people.

You’ll want to grab a prepared salad with your pizza, our favorite being the Italian Chopped ($22) and Nectarine and Feta ($15) with sheep’s milk feta, arugula and balsamic vinaigrette.

Piadine (folded pizza crusts filled with toppings) is slated to arrive shortly, with the Eggplant Parm and Caprese high on my list to try.

Also, Stellina Pronto sells slices during the day, and has frequent wood-fired vegetable specials like seasonal asparagus.

Caiazzo, who also owns Petaluma’s Stellina Alimentari, a sandwich shop, Italian marketplace and deli, is finally in his happy place making the kinds of pizzas he’s always loved — with a warm heart and a hot oven.

Stellina Pronto, 23 Kentucky St., Petaluma, stellinapronto.com.