The Best Pizza On The Planet
Margherita and Marinara at Pizzeria Popolare, Paris. Photograph by Ms Joann Pai, courtesy of Big Mamma Group
Because we eat carbs every so often, too.
It is, plainly, not a strange thing to build a holiday around a single meal. Once you’ve bagged your lunch at Osteria Francescana or dinner at The French Laundry six months in advance, the excursions to Rimini or the Napa Valley, not to mention the flights and hotel reservations, fit with that reservation. But when it comes to good pizza, there is no need to be such an eager beaver.
Where once there was only one true destination for pizza – Naples, the birthplace of the stuff – now there are decent wood-fired pizzerias in every corner of the planet, thanks to a diaspora of pizzaioli whose knowledge of dough may go back as far as Princess Margherita herself. These purists, now dotted everywhere from Melbourne to Madrid, are obsessed with the finest flours, tomatoes and hand-stretched fior di latte (cow’s milk mozzarella), meaning some of the most lava-hot slices are to be found nowhere near the slopes of Vesuvius. And naturally, with this most democratic of meals, there’s not much difference in price between your typical high-street franchise, where you celebrated your 10th birthday, and the very best out there. The distinction is usually the queue. But, for the following eight pizza joints, the wait is worth it.
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, London
Marinara at L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, London. Photograph by Mr Andy Parsons/Time Out/REX/Shutterstock
Once upon a well-leafed copy of Eat, Pray, Love, the only way to eat the planet’s most famous pizza was by hopping on a flight to Naples (all right, or Rome). Now, for Londoners, it’s the relatively easy task of jumping on the 73 bus to Stoke Newington, where the Condurro family has opened its fourth outlet of Da Michele. The Neapolitan branch opened in 1870 and, thanks to Ms Julia Roberts, has become a tourist destination of its own. The Phlegraean Fields certainly can’t compare on the fior di latte front. This is pure-bred, no mod cons, Naples pizza. Except it’s in London.
What to order: owner Mr Michele Condurro was reportedly tempted to add a third option to the tradition-hugging two-pizza menu for the London restaurant, but decided against it. The margherita is obviously superb, but go for the marinara: tomato, oregano and garlic cooked for one wood-fired minute on a crust that hangs, tantalisingly, just over the plate.
Taste of Brandenburg at Standard, Berlin. Photograph courtesy of Standard
“Serious Pizza”, exclaims Standard’s logo, a useful counter to the suggestion that pizzaiolo Mr Alessandro Leonardi’s food is as run-of-the-mill as its name implies. Located in a bourgeois neighbourhood on the outskirts of Mitte, Austrian Mr Florian Schramm opened this pizzeria three years ago. The pies made by Mr Leonardi, a graduate of the Academy of Naples’ official Association of Pizza Makers, have already become known as the best in the city. The menu, full of classic thick crusts, opens with the Oasis title “Don’t Look Back In Anger” as an encouragement not to go easy.
What to order: Standard does do the Naples thing – a margherita and a marinara dominate the menu, alongside imported Italian ingredients such as pecorino and salame napoli – but for a hint of your surroundings, open your gate for the Taste of Brandenburg, a white pizza with wild boar sausage, potato and fresh rosemary. Das gute Zeug.
Margherita at Roberta’s, Brooklyn. Photograph courtesy of Roberta’s
Before it became known as New York’s buzziest pizza joint – you may have seen Marni eating there in season two of Girls – it would be easy to miss Roberta’s now-famous red door. In fact, it still is. Outside, Mr Carlo Mirarchi’s restaurant looks innocuous enough, but inside it is a sprawling, multi-roomed wonder with a giant Italian-import wood-fired pizza oven (which used to double as the restaurant’s heating) and a radio station. Mr Mirarchi offers a full menu, which has grown around the pizza, led by delicately prepared vegetable-based dishes – think coal-roasted beets and wood-fired savoy cabbage. But when in Bushwick, eat what made Roberta’s famous.
What to order: Roberta’s is a complex restaurant disguised as a beer-and-pizza joint. It does simple very well. Order the 12in margherita and delight in a product with the moist centre of a Neapolitan pie and the stiff crust of a New York pizza. Match it with one of the 14 orange wines (who knew?). If you can’t hack the queue, there’s always the takeaway counter.
Pizzeria Popolare, Paris
Truffle pizza at Pizzeria Popolare, Paris. Photograph by Ms Joann Pai, courtesy of Big Mamma Group
Paris may boast many good things, but it’s rarely a cheap place to eat good Italian food. Pizza Popolare, as the name suggests, has heard the people sing and offers authentic Neapolitan pie, at authentic Neapolitan prices. What’s more, as this is France, despite the imported Italian ingredients, there’s no need to bow to Italian dough diktats. Based in the second arrondissement, Popolare is one of a run of sharp, yet modestly priced trattorias in the French capital from newcomer The Big Mamma Group.
What to order: try the most expensive thing on the pizza menu, the double truffle, which mixes fior di latte with Parisian mushrooms, parmesan, fresh truffles and a crème de truffe.
Pepe In Grani, Caiazzo
Margherita Sbagliata at Pepe in Grani, Naples. Photograph courtesy of Pepe in Grani
Va’ fa Napoli! Or rather Caiazzo, just north of the ancient city, where Mr Franco Pepe sources all the ingredients from within a few kilometres of his restaurant. He ferments his dough for 72 to 96 hours – much longer than most cooks – and the result is a stunning pie that’s secured Pepe In Grani the accolade of best pizzeria in Italy (and the most popular nominee in foodie pizza bible Where To Eat Pizza). For those reasons, get there early (think UK dinner time) to beat the queues. Mr Pepe makes 500 pizzas a day (by hand, no less) and once they’re gone, they’re gone.
What to order: Mr Pepe is no stickler for topping purity. His menu features ingredients from fig preserve to anchovies. In the spirit of minor invention, try his margherita sbagliata (margherita made wrong), a spread of tomato purée and basil reduction on a mozzarella-topped dough.
Pizzeria Beddia, Philadelphia
Marinara Anchovy Pizza at Pizzeria Beddia, Philadelphia. Photograph by Mr Randy Harris from Pizza Camp by Mr Joe Beddia, courtesy of ABRAMS
Mr Pepe may hand-stretch 500 pizzas a day, but the owner of the pizzeria that’s been dubbed the best in the US is far more parsimonious. Mr Joe Beddia makes just 40 pies a day, and he has no plans to do more. He opened the cash-only Fishtown venue in 2013, and the buzz hasn’t stopped since. He takes a dough fermented for 36 hours stretched to about 16in, mixes it with a sauce made from tinned New Jersey potatoes, bakes it for 10 minutes (rather than the usual Neapolitan 90-second scorching), then tops it with dried oregano and shavings of a gouda-like cheese made in a south central Pennsylvania dairy, plus a squirt of olive oil. Hand over your cash, then eat where you like because there aren’t any tables.
What to order: Mr Beddia makes his marinara anchovy pizza with Agostino Recca fillets imported from Sicily. They’re broken up and added to the pizza after cooking to melt – not cook – a little over the cheese.
Bráz, São Paulo
Pizza Bráz at Bráz, Brazil. Photograph by Mr Paulo Mercadante, courtesy of Bráz
São Paulo takes its pizza as seriously as anywhere outside Italy, even New York. Thanks to the city’s huge population of Italian descendants, there are five times as many “Italians” in São Paulo as there are in Naples. An annual pizza day, celebrated on 10 July, gives you a hint of how popular it is in the city. Sunday is the big family pizza day in São Paulo where its 6,000 neighbourhood pizzerias are ambushed by hungry Brazilian families, hankering after the huge thin-crusted pies to be found in joints such as Bráz, which, across its eight locations, will serve thousands of pizzas from its wood burners.
What to order: pizza Bráz. Brazilians have put their own twist on their adopted dish – think corn and creamy Catupiry cheese. The house special at Bráz is simple but effective. Fernandinho rather than Neymar Jr. It’s covered with sliced courgette, garlic and olives, and topped with mozzarella and parmesan.
Margherita at Bæst, Copenhagen. Photograph by Mr PA Jørgensen, courtesy of Bæst
You don’t need to be fluent in Danish to translate the name of chef Mr Christian Puglisi’s stylish Nørrebro eatery. He may make the finest pizza dough in Copenhagen, but at Bæst, the beast is king. Charcuterie is made in-house from some of Denmark’s finest swine and served alongside homemade cheese, both of which make it onto Bæst’s short, but glorious, pizza menu, featuring a mixture of local and Italian flours.
What to order: Mr Puglisi is an alumnus of Noma, the restaurant that has redefined Danish cuisine. Which means that while margheritas are on the menu, you can see the influence of Noma’s founder, Mr René Redzepi, in some dishes too – notably pizza number six, which is cooked with Bæst’s own take on soft Puglian stracciatella cheese and topped with oyster mushrooms and nettles. But no live ants as of yet.