If you're willing to overlook the fact that Hudson, Wis., and Naples, Italy, are several worlds apart, you may appreciate the continental standards that help Bricks Neapolitan Pizza (407 2nd St., Hudson; www.eatbricks.com), a VPN-certified pizzeria, stand out amid an ocean of local pizza joints.

This much can be said for the VPN certification program that has asserted itself in the Upper Midwest over the past five or so years: When you see the "VPN" seal (Vera Pizza Napoletana -- true Neapolitan pizza), you've got a fighting chance at a good meal.

The rules for the U.S. VPN association are relatively simple: You need a high-temperature (800-degree) wood-burning oven; specific types of flour, tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil; low-speed or hand-mixed dough; and some oversight from the VPN group itself. All this doesn't guarantee a great pizza; you can still have crackerlike or mushy crust, overcooked cheese and any number of other execution problems. Still, it's a start. Bricks builds from the VPN concept to execute a nice, relatively straightforward Neapolitan-style pie with few hitches.

A classic margherita-style pizza with the "Pizza D.O.C." option was as simple and pure as any diner might hope for. The pizza itself was a straightforward American rendering of the Neapolitan standby -- thin, chewy crust, bright tomatoes, high-quality cheese and basil. The $2.25 Pizza D.O.C. add-on meant that the pizza featured imported mozzarella di bufala, made from whole water buffalo milk. (Whether you can really make a VPN-worthy pizza using local, non-Italian mozzarella would be a brain-melting argument.) The result was an extremely lactic, somewhat sweet and very tender cheese topping on the pie. The only slight regrets were that the rich, engaging cheese shouted down the tomatoes, and the crust could have used a little more oomph and resilience.

A Siciliana pizza was also a well-designed specimen, the olives, artichoke hearts and prosciutto in balance and evenly distributed. The non-D.O.C. cheese was a little less flavorful, but the knife cuts both ways -- instead of being an overbearing star player, the cheese was more adequately incorporated into the ensemble cast.

Bricks' pizzas are similar to the Twin Cities VPN standard (Punch), although the Hudson eatery is more generous with the cheese and less focused on the sauce. Whether that's a good thing is a matter for personal interpretation.

Prices are reasonable, on the whole -- individual 10-inch pies range from $8.75 for the margherita up to about $15 for a meat-heavy pie tricked out with buffalo mozz and the presumably non-autentico Pizza Vesuvio option (ricotta stuffed in the crust). And while there's not much to be said for the ambience (Spartan suburban chic), service was prompt and attentive, and the central Hudson location is fairly clutch.


Just in time for the merciful appearance of spring, the sixth annual Community Garden Spring Resource Fair takes place Saturday at the Sabathani Community Center. It includes a day of workshops sponsored by Gardening Matters on gardening and landscaping in the urban community.

The Heavy Table team writes about food and drink in the Upper Midwest five days a week at www.heavytable.com.