I’ve seen some serious crimes out in Warsaw, some serious crimes against cooking. And in my mind, no other culinary sector carries a higher risk of error than pizza. To the untrained eye this is a simple food, which explains why only kebab shops and sushi stops outnumber the pizzerias (I’ll rethink this invented stat next year when the burger trend flat lines). But this prevalence of pizzas does not mean Warsaw has mastered them – far from it. Doubt me, then check out Momo – it’s like gnawing on a car tyre that’s been lathered in ketchup.
But times are changing – tastes have been refined, and standards raised. A stupid name and a decent delivery service are no longer enough to guarantee custom (as proved by the demise of Saddam Bless America Pizza – really, they did exist). The bar has been raised. First, by the Rucola chain, then later by La Bufala. Then came Mąka i Woda and rewrote the rules: that Wojciech Amaro shows up with his family is a pretty solid tribute. But you know what, I think I’ve found better.
Acting on a tip from warsawfoodie.pl, I found myself in Powiśle on Friday. It’s not an area I particularly like (I don’t have a pop star haircut, so locals treat me with suspicion), but the stories I’d heard were too good to ignore. And I’m so glad I didn’t. L-shaped in size, myself and Mrs Insider chose the more private part to the back – it’s a dark and dimmed space, fashionably sparse, with white wall tiles and eclectic wallpaper rising to the exposed pipes above. For a casual date, it immediately feels right.
The menu is a simple laminated affair with eleven ‘pizze rosse’ and eight ‘pizza biance’ on one side, and a selection of snacks and salads on the other. Wanting something a little lively I opt for the Diavolo, the partner for the antipasti. The latter arrives on a wooden board, groaning heavily with capers, cheeses and sundried tomatoes. There is no criticism: this is on a par with anything you find in Warsaw’s ‘proper’ restaurants. But it is the pizza that becomes the center of conversation. This is a remarkable affair: singed on the edges, with a vibrant tomato sauce and plenty of extra woomph from the spicy salami and fresh pepperoncini.
I’m full, but also stunned – stunned by the size of the bill, which is considerably smaller than an order from Dominos (confession: I do sometimes use them). For this reason I order a take-out, just a standard margherita. I eat it cold, the next morning, but even so I can recognize its greatness. Which is why I did the unthinkable – I returned on the Saturday to see how good it was fresh from the oven. In short, it felt like one of those moments I’d outsmarted the rest of Warsaw by eating something so good. The cost of this pleasure: zł. 18.
So I’ve read, the chefs behind this blinder are Massimo (now replaced by his father, Lino) and Fabio: two expert pizza makers whose families have been involved in the biz for generations. Backed by the patronage of the Januszkiewicz family (former owners of Rubikon and Syrena), what’s been created is Warsaw’s best pizza.
(Words & Photos: Alex Webber)
Ave Pizza ul. Topiel 12