These wood-fired pies a delicious addition on Santa Fe's pizza scene - Albuquerque Journal

These wood-fired pies a delicious addition on Santa Fe’s pizza scene

Dinner table with Pizza Chimayó and The Norteño and Arugula Salads at HAWT Pizza. (Heather Hunter/For the Journal)

Looking around the restaurant scene in The City Different, there is a diverse landscape of more than 300 culinary options. And when analyzing the restaurant scene, there are two major food categories that rise to the top. It’s no surprise that New Mexico food is prevalent, but pizza appears to be sitting in second place of popularity and frequency.

There seem to be more pizza restaurants per capita in Santa Fe than in most cities. And while this is surprising, what makes this totally acceptable is that each of the dozens of pizza joints have a differentiating element. But with so many pizza spots, how do you even zero in on a favorite?

It starts with the crust. Thin or thick or something in between. Sauce. Red sauce, white sauce or pesto. Cheese. A lot of cheese, light cheese or no cheese. And the baking method. Screaming hot oven, wood-fire burning oven or grill.

Whether you want to eat pizza on a corner, from a food truck, on the rooftop, along the original Santa Fe Trail, in a bar, in a brewery, near the Plaza, outside of town, there are options for whatever kind of pizza you crave. A piping hot pizza is mandatory. But have you considered a HAWT pizza?

The Norteño with Ezzo pepperoni, Keller’s Farms Hot Italian Sausage, mushrooms, green chile and basil at HAWT Pizza. (Heather Hunter/For the Journal

What does HAWT mean? According to the HAWT Pizza website, owners Felicia Meyer and Seth Beckley propose several layers of meaning to HAWT. First, it stands for “Have a Wonderful Time” (HAWT), pronounced like hot. And then there’s the 850-degree Texas oak wood-burning oven that cooks a pizza in 90 seconds. No matter which way you slice it, this pizza is HAWT, hot and haute!

Located just off the Plaza in Hotel Chimayó de Santa Fe’s Low ‘N Slow Bar, guests can enjoy a solid pizza while sipping suds, cocktails and wine in this cozy, but simple, space. The tight and thoughtful menu features eight creative pies ($13-19) to choose from, and a simple Arugula Side Salad ($6) with Parmesan cheese and served only with olive oil. Conveniently, HAWT also has a location at the very popular Sawmill Market in Albuquerque, both venues are owned by Heritage Hotels and Resorts.

The pizza oven already existed in Hotel Chimayó, which made it easy for HAWT Pizza to dive into the Santa Fe market to build on their brand. The wood-fired oven is HAWT’s claim to fame, and the Italian component to the pizza. Meyer explained that the dough is a combo of “the chew people love from a New York pizza and the classic Neapolitan pizza, and that there is a real art to cooking these pizzas.”

An accountant by trade, Meyer says, “My love of cooking pizza started years ago with a Weber grill in my backyard. After feeding people food they loved, I was encouraged by friends and family to open a restaurant. In 2011, I bought an imported oven from Italy, put it on a trailer and catered events, movie sets and more. When Seth and I were invited to be part of the inaugural launch of Albuquerque’s Sawmill Market in 2020, HAWT was born. Then we opened HAWT in Santa Fe in February 2021.”

Pizza Chimayó with roasted garlic, Boar’s Head bacon, wood fired chicken, Chimayó red chile crema and arugula at HAWT Pizza. (Heather Hunter/For the Journal)

As for the distinguishing factor that sets HAWT Pizza apart from the busy pizzeria landscape, Meyer says, “Every kitchen is non-GMO and we strive really hard to bring the products to the market that are worth eating. From our cheese to our pepperoni, it’s a premium product. Ezzo sausage made in Ohio by the same family for 100 years. We field the products and we use Bianco DiNapoli organic tomatoes for the sauce, which is Chris Bianco in Phoenix, the king of Neapolitan pizza in the states.”

The menu and concept behind HAWT are a cross-between Neapolitan and New York style pizza. “Neo-Neapolitan style is what they call it,” says Meyer who wanted to pay homage to Italy and New York. “We have different menus in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but each menu focuses on a sense of place. For example, in Santa Fe, The Norteño ($19) is a nod to northern New Mexico, and like The Lobo in Albuquerque. Some pizzas are traditional Italian style with a few ingredients and then there are New York options with more toppings.”

The Norteño is one of the most popular pies in Santa Fe and it’s one my dining companion and I were drawn to. A red sauce is topped with Ezzo pepperoni, Keller’s Farms Hot Italian sausage, mushrooms, green chile and basil. This perfectly spicy pizza speaks to meat lovers in a big way, and we were impressed. The crust is the Goldilocks standard of classic Neapolitan and New York chew providing a sturdy foundation for the generous meats that make this pizza a solid choice.

We also had the Pizza Chimayó ($19) which features roasted garlic, Boar’s Head bacon and wood-fired chicken chunks. The pizza is then doused with spoonfuls of a gorgeous Chimayó red chile crema and topped with a handful of spicy arugula.

The red chile crema is truly a spectacular addition to this pizza. It’s so tasty, I recommend you request a side of the Chimayó red chile crema for every pizza. It’s that singular and special.

Of course no pizza joint would be complete without the classic Margherita ($15) with mozzarella, olive oil and freshly torn basil. And pepperoni fans will be happy with the Pepperoni ($16) which features an abundance of small but crispy, chewy and spicy pepperoni rounds.

The New Mexico White pizza replaces the traditional red sauce with a garlic crema that is topped with wood fired chicken chunks, feta, green chile, oven-roasted garlic and basil. In one bite, you may eschew red sauce from here on. The Pesto ($19) pie uses basil pesto for the red sauce and is then topped with wood fired chicken chunks, artichokes, green chile, Kalamata olives and thinly-sliced red onion.

And for vegetarians and vegans, HAWT has something for you as well. The Veggie ($18) pizza is loaded with roasted red pepper, artichoke hearts, red onion, Kalamata olives and basil, while the Vegan ($13) also adds mushrooms.

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