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Posted on Wed, Dec 26, 2012 : 10:29 a.m.

NeoPapalis offers a solid take on Neapolitan pizza

By Julie Halpert

What the new pizza eatery NeoPapalis has most going for it is not so much that it has unveiled a blockbuster type of pizza (it hasn't) or that it has an expansive menu with many items to choose from (it doesn't.) But NeoPapalis is fortunate enough to be located in the same building as a brand new, luxurious student high rise. Students need merely walk out of the door of their building and go through another entrance and they're there—a huge perk to both the restaurant and those customers, especially on a brisk winter night.

NeoPapalis, which opened Oct. 4, prepares a version of Neapolitan-style pizza, which owner Joe Sheena says has become the new wave in Italy. That pizza uses highly hydrated dough, Italian flour, sea salt, water and yeast. Sheena says his pizza recipe consists of slightly less hydration along with olive oil to create a crust "with a very airy edge and a very tender center." Sheena says so far, most of the customers have been students, but more people who live in Ann Arbor "are discovering us" through word of mouth.

In addition to four different types of pizzas, there are also salads and sandwiches. The ambience is sleek and bright. A long counter that is the focal point for food preparation takes up half the restaurant. There are numerous light wood tables and chairs.

There is also a bar area bordering a large, flat-screen television. Sheena hopes to sell Michigan microbrews on draft and three red and white wines, but he's been waiting for word on a liquor license.

The appeal here is to see your pizza prepared right in front of you. Servers knead the dough, then others add your choice of toppings: meat, vegetable and extra cheese. Your various items are added on as you move through the line. Then you get a pager that tells you when it's done cooking. For sandwiches and salads, you place your order with the cashier instead.

While the basic pizza prices are inexpensive, $6 and $7, that can rise, depending on how many toppings you select, as each is a dollar. It's fun to observe the variety of pizza that various customers create coming through the line.


500 E. William St., Ann Arbor
  • Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m.
  • Plastic: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover
  • Liquor: No
  • Prices: Inexpensive for most items. Pizzas start at $6 or $7. Sandwiches start at $5.
  • Noise level: Loud when busy
  • Wheelchair access: Yes
We decided to go with the classica, white and margherita pizzas. Except for some sea salt sprinkled on the margherita, the descriptions of that and the classica are virtually identical, as is the taste. That's not a bad thing. The melding of the spongy crust and the solid tomato sauce made for a fine combination. The margherita also has a few fresh basil leaves sprinkled sparsely throughout, but that's about the only substantive difference.

We ordered the classica with bacon and there were big, flavorful chunks of it tucked beneath the cheese. All the tomato sauce pizzas were quite good, as was the crust.

The white pizza was basically just an abundance of mozzarella cheese sprinkled on the standard crust. I usually enjoy white pizza because it tastes starkly different than the tomato version. The caramelized onions, mushrooms and spinach we ordered were all fresh and tasted fine, but the overall pizza lacked enough garlic and other seasonings to distinguish itself.

The salads here are fresh and wonderful. You have a nice choice of a mix of greens: arugula, spinach and romaine. In the first salad we tried, the spinach and arugula were incredibly fresh, complemented by the fresh beets and cucumbers, as was the smooth, creamy goat cheese we ordered in it. The chipotle ranch dressing was spicier than other versions I've tried; I preferred the creamy ranch. I was impressed that the other salad I ordered contained fresh slivers of asiago cheese, as well as delicious artichoke hearts, bathed in a first-rate Caesar dressing.

A highlight of our meal was the turkey sandwich that my daughter ordered. It boasted big chunks of fresh turkey (reminding us of our Thanksgiving meal) contained in a giant pita that she ordered with provolone cheese. It was absolutely fantastic.

The steak sandwich and the chicken curry sandwich both were good and well seasoned. However, the chicken curry sandwich was doused with caramelized onions and was light on the provolone cheese. I would have preferred the reverse. All of the sandwiches are giant, more than enough for one serving.

There are only two dessert items, cinnamon sticks and another item that I don't feel constitutes a dessert: sweet potato fries. I would skip them. They were inundated with salt and didn't pass muster.

On our first visit, two days after Thanksgiving when the students had clearly deserted campus, we received our extensive order within minutes. But the second time, on a busy Friday night, servers were overwhelmed. I waited quite a while for my sandwiches, only to see others who ordered pizza after me get their meal delivered first. When my food was finally ready, I had to wait longer, as they forgot my sweet potato fries.

NeoPapalis provides some solid, fresh fare in an innovative, appealing environment. And in a college town, there's no such thing as too many pizza eateries.

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Julie Halpert reviews restaurants for



Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

The article does not say which student hi-rise?


Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

Yes, I was wondering how far into the "review" I'd have to get before they let on where the place was.

Julie Halpert

Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

It's next to Zaragon West.

Julie Sunstein

Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

Julie is a fabulous food critic, we are lucky to have her!


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

she is not a critic she voices her opinions, which is ok, but not a critic.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 4:43 a.m.

Be glad you have it Ann Arbor. All we have as far as good pizza in Ypsi is Aubrey's.


Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

Hellooooo market opportunity!


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 12:22 a.m.

@ Robo: Have what you want on it, just don't call it Italian pizza. It's not. Happy New Year and if you're ever out east here's a place that serves the real, coal fired deal, the first method used in this country which, in Italy, dates back to the 1500's: There's a Tony Saco's about to open up in Ann Arbor by the REI store that uses coal method. Here's hoping they nail it and put the posers to shame.


Wed, Dec 26, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

After having read the story, and then the comments, I had to go back to the story to ascertain which sentence was "so poorly written" and "anguished," as I did not remember one that caused me any difficulty in any way. I liked the first sentence. I don't mind thinking just a bit when someone writes something that is anything more than a simple declarative sentence with subject, verb and object.


Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

I relish grammatical throw-downs.. At least someone is performing the edit function. Of course commenters are not trying to pass themselves off as proper newspapers.


Fri, Dec 28, 2012 : 2:31 a.m.

Holy Moly, was that post some kind of sarcastic joke? Or is it just the rule that people who are the worst at "grammar" are the most likely to complain about it in others? Stripped, not striped. Convoluted, not convulted. Sentences, not senteces. Capitalize "I"; don't capitalize "philosophy." Glass houses.


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 3:42 a.m.

I am not an expert on grammar (though I know the word is spelled with two "a"s), but my understanding of antecedent and consequent is that those terms refer to a sentence in the form of a proposition such as "If p, then q." That is not the structure of the first sentence in this article, which is skeletally more along the lines of "not that, but this." Perhaps the problem may lie in the conjunction "But" beginning the second sentence. Some find conjunctions beginning sentences to be wrong, but such use of conjunctions has been around for hundreds of years. I will grant that the period is misplaced inside the parenthetical expression, "(it doesn't.)"


Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 3:22 a.m.

I don't like simple, striped-down sentence structures. I actually love convulted, run-on senteces, as i often encounter these in Philosophy essays. While it's true grammer and style are subjective, having an antecedent and no consequent is not. The reason i said anything, is because feels they can operate with a stripped-down news room. They obviously cannot.

Tom Joad

Wed, Dec 26, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

I agree, your introduction was anguished. When the reader is immediately tasked with juggling some negatives as points you've lost em...


Wed, Dec 26, 2012 : 5:37 p.m.

Lots of potential. Great crust and understanding of the old world flash cooking method. Way to much mozzarella to taste anything else on the pie but the cheese and resultant grease (and I ordered it light on the cheese). And, really, if you're having curry chicken or Canadian bacon on it, it ain't pizza (don't get me started with a side of ranch dressing).


Wed, Dec 26, 2012 : 6:56 p.m.

whatever pizza nazi. Dont tell me what I can and cant have on my PIZZA.


Wed, Dec 26, 2012 : 4:21 p.m.

The first sentence was so poorly-written, that I gave up. This is what happens when news outlets aren't propperly staffed. This keeps happening, basic mistakes that should never have made it through an editing process. They are sure quick to inexplicably remove comments, however. I will say this, NeoPapalis has great pizza and are quite friendly!