I tried some superlative pizza several times at Astra recently and I had to call the owner and find out the scoop on this place.
Carlos Valverde is serious about making his pizza. Having made pizza in New Jersey and New York with family most of his life, he has it down to a science. He uses filtered water in his dough and his dough changes every day based upon the weather. When pressed for his recipe, he says, “It just depends. If it is more humid it is different. I adjust it by the weather.” All of his ingredients are shipped in from his old stomping grounds to ensure continuity and quality.
In fact, when I have tried his pizzas, the first thing I noticed about them was the perfect development of the dough. A well-kneaded, risen dough has a completely different texture than doughs that have chemicals added to them to develop quickly and preserve them. It is golden and crusty on the outside and has that chewy New York texture on the inside. It really took me back.
The traditional New York pizza ($6.99, $8.99 and $12.99 for small, medium and huge) on the menu, is just that. House made sauce, great quality mozzarella and baked until the crust is perfectly done and the cheese is melty and bubbly. The 18″ pizza seemed larger than that, or maybe the other pizza places that claim to serve an 18′ are smaller. I don’t know, but this was a giant-sized pizza. Another pizza I have ordered is the Five Cheese ($8.49, $11.99 and $16.99 respectively). It is made with a white sauce and has Provolone, Ricotta, Feta, Mozzarella and Parmesan. I asked for fresh tomatoes and olives on it and it was incredibly tasty and satisfying. It was one of those moments where you are completely full but wish you could eat more. I think I was just starved for some authentic pizza.
For lunch, you can get a pizza roll for 1 person with a drink for $4.50. For $8.99 you can get lunch for 2 people which includes 2 slices of pizza, a pizza roll and 2 drinks. They also serve subs, salads and smoothies.
Carlos grew up in Peru and later New Jersey and New York. His father’s family is Sicilian and his mother’s family is from Spain. He came here only 1 1/2 years ago to make his pizza mark in St. Petersburg.
Astra Pizza is open 7 days a week. Monday through Saturday they are open from 11 am until 10 pm. On Sundays they are open from 5:30 pm until 9:30 pm. They also deliver.