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November 2004

It's Dough Time!

Get a pizza the latest restaurant trend

It’s a victory for healthy appetites. Sushi’s position as the ultimate cool food appears to be under threat. And from what? None other than the humble pizza. Perhaps we’re no longer prepared to fork out so much for so little (sushi is not known as supermodel food for nothing) just for the sake of being fashionable. But whatever the reason, pizza is now back on the menu. Ok, so it’s had a makeover since the days when pizzerias with faux Italian waiters and black and white décor were all the rage. Now we’re talking pizza bars and lounges. Not only has the company behind the ultra-hip Bar Centrale and Cortiina Hotel got in on the act with Riva in Tal, but this summer what was formerly Rincon was transformed into a pizza lounge, promising the best pizza in town. MUNICH FOUND set out to put its brave assertion to the test.

If ever a food was made for lounging, it’s pizza. There’s something so much more appealing about lazily munching your way through a few slices on the sofa, licking your fingers as you go, than there is about eating one with a knife and fork at a table. That’s why Nero, which describes itself as a pizza lounge, sounded like such a good idea. In reality, however, the lounge is restricted to a small mezzanine level with leather cubes and sofas, which overlooks the dining area, itself more industrial chic than lounge-lizard luxury. But what Nero lacks in comfort, it makes up for in the pizzas. The bases are melt-in-the mouth light—as crispy and airy as I’ve ever tasted. So much so that it’s no trouble to devour a whole one (even for those who are more accustomed to sushi). Pizzas cost between € 6 and € 9.50 and range from the traditional Napoli, with anchovies and capers, to the more creative Polipo, with tomato, mozzarella and squid marinated in garlic. Ingredients are strewn abstractly over the top, so what you effectively get is a fresh mountain of Italian goodies, piled on a wafer-thin base, which cracks and crunches with every bite—for some, perhaps too crispy. Indeed, whether Nero really does have the best pizza in town is, as with most things, a matter of taste. If your pizza of choice is a chewy, deep-pan number with cheese oozing out of every bubble, it’s not the place for you.
Rumfordstrasse 34, Tel. (089) 21 01 90 60

Why would the people behind one of Munich’s hippest bars open a pizza joint? We’re just guessing here, but it could be because a) they have too much money and not enough imagination or b) they know that, at the end of the day, simplicity is successful. And you don’t get much simpler than pizza. With Riva Bar it seems there is much truth in the latter. You will probably never have noticed the place. Just like its sister Bar Centrale in Ledererstrasse, Riva is inconspicuous from the outside, and nothing special from the inside. Both bars are simple, with no flounces and no back lights to show off two dozen bottles of Aperol, and both have a smoky backroom. And yet they are both, without exception, heaving.
No matter what time of day, these places have succeeded in finding a clientele. Riva is reminiscent of an Italian caff with simple décor, basic furniture and staff running around chaotically, yelling prego. As for the pizza (from € 6 to € 11.50) which is cooked in a stone oven behind the bar, again it’s got that effortless, thrown-together look about it. The base is thin, the crust crisp and the center just chewy enough. Toppings range from the traditional to the creative, with concoctions such as pizza anatra, with smoked duck, radicchio and truffle oil. And even our good old sushi gets a look in, with the sushi pizza Riva—marinated tuna carpaccio with asian seasoning and wasabi. All in all Riva provides one of those pizza experiences where you think you’re not going to make it through a whole one, and yet somehow just can’t stop. It’s just a pity the place was too smoky to fully appreciate the taste, though…
Riva Tal 44, Tel. (089) 22 02 40

It’s all very well funking up a classic. But if modern pizzas, with their ingredients strewn Jamie Oliver-style on the top, claim to be the best in town, they really should be compared to the original article. And so, on the advice of some Italians, I headed to La Baia. Mamma mia! It was like stepping back into the 1980s. This is a classic Italian pizzeria with black tables and chairs, pictures on the walls of people sucking spaghetti and a wine list featuring the old favorites, frascati and soave—the only thing that was missing was the signor with the oversized black pepper grinder. But on to the pizza. Topping-wise there was none of the beef carpaccio, crème fraiche, coriander and curry la di dah that was on offer in hipper establishments. In fact the most adventurous item on the menu was the pizza tutto, with—you guessed it—a bit of everything. The bases were equally as traditional—thin, but still gooey, with a crispy, airy crust—just like mamma used to make it, or so I imagine. Prices range from € 5.60 to € 9.50. All in all, I was after a classic, and I got one. But as pizza is not exactly the most adventurous dish in the world, I have to say that the new take on it at least livens the whole thing up a bit, creating an altogether more exciting dining experience.
La Baia
Milchstrasse 10, Tel. (089) 448 49 37

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