Warning: this post may make you want a pizza!
Another trip is in the bag and a lot of pizza was eaten: 9 times in seven weeks!
We used to eat pizza every week, as evidenced by the title of this blog. It has been two years since we followed the weekly habit but travel gives us the perfect
excuse reason to continue our research. Overall, we had a better pizza experience this year than in 2017 when we only found one truly great pizza (see Pizzeria Back to Basics) and several marginal ones.
We went to Liguria for seafood — and we had some excellent meals with grilled fish, clams, mussels, and marinated anchovies — but we also found the most outstanding pizza of the trip at Caffe al Teatro in Camogli. Caffe al Teatro is attached to a very grand theatre venue with appropriate elegance for such a fine building. Not your average Italian pizzeria. It has white tablecloths, crystal, soft lighting, a mellow playlist, and a server who would be at home in a Michelin-rated restaurant. But they crank out pizza. There are antipasti, one or two kinds of pasta, and desserts, but primarily it is pizza on the minds of the dinners.
At Caffe al Teatro the pizza choices are extraordinary and creative. There are the usual suspects, like Ric’s Pizza Romana with anchovies, olives and capers, or a simple Salami Piccanti. There are also more exotic and unusual creations. The Pizza alla Stefano was so good I had it on both visits: mozzarella di bufala, raddicchio, grana padrano, spinach, and prosciutto turned out to be a wondrous combination. Grazie, Stefano! The wine list is fairly robust for a small establishment, but we found the house wine to be a great pizza wash. Never made it to dessert.
Caffe al Teatro gets a solid 10 in the Our Weekly Pizza ratings. Quality product, great service, and a charming dining room merit 9 points, and an extra credit point for pizza choices. You can even pick your dough! Absolutely go there if you are in the region. Open evenings only, in true Italian tradition.
We “discovered” La Tambra of Santa Cristina in 2016 when we spent the month of July in Ortisei. I am pleased to say it was worth the trip, still producing a great product. It is an awkward trip by bus: easy to arrive for dinner at 19:00 or so, but regular bus service stops and one has to wait for the hourly “Night Bus” to return to Ortisei. La Tambra still garners 9 points from us. Consistency and excellence. The rest of the menu looks good, too, but I’d have a hard time going there and eating anything other than pizza.
Maurizkeller in Ortisei is an old standby. We go there every trip and have probably eaten half-a-dozen pizzas over the past few years. This trip, we went twice! Not much I can say that I have not said before. (See the link above about La Tambra.) It’s a reliable choice in Ortisei. Maurizkeller still gets a solid 8 points. And they have the largest selection of pizzas we have ever seen.
The balance of our pizza-eating this trip was in Switzerland and we were delighted by the quality.
First up, Nostra Pizzeria in Pontresina. This was our first visit to Pontresina. Finding that most residents were Italian-speaking was a plus and a truly Italian pizzeria was a bonus. The service was in a mixture of German and Italian with a smattering of English. Beer dominated the drinks menu and the service was Swiss-efficient almost to the point of brusque, but they turned out a good pizza. The place was very busy even though Pontresina was headed toward end-of-season. Nostra Pizzeria is an 8-pointer. Excellent product, good service, nice dining rooms.
We love Lauterbrunnen almost as much as we love Ortisei. The transportation! The mountains! The beautiful hiking! The expense! A pizza in Lauterbrunnen — a pizza for ONE PERSON — will set you back $18-$22. (The same pie in Italy would be $8-12.) Interestingly, pizza is still one of the least expensive things you can eat in a restaurant there. A plate of Rösti (essentially fancy hashbrowns) will run $22-24! I’d rather eat pizza and we ate it twice during our Lauterbrunnen week. Nota Bene: We cook a lot when we go to Switzerland. Future blog over at http://www.Girovaga.com about cooking on-the-road.
The best was at Weidstuebli at Camping Jungfrau. In the middle of a camping park (think mini trailers and cabins, not giant RVs), this little place is always buzzing. We failed to make a reservation but they accommodated us at what seemed to be the last unreserved spot. Is this the best pizza we’ve eaten? No. But the service is lovely, the restaurant Swiss-cute, and the pizza is huge, more than I could eat. Ric helped me. The Weidstuebli gets 8 points.
We also like to stop by Hotel/Restaurant Steinbock in Lauterbrunnen. We stayed here on our first trip to the area at New Year’s 2014. It’s a rather down-market hotel but we were very late planning a trip in the high season so we could choose the Hotel Steinbock or pay $400 per night. We went down market. It was fine: clean, private bath (only two rooms in the hotel have ensuite facilities), good breakfast, and a bonus for Ric: a view of the train station and trains. But I digress.
We eat here partly out of nostalgia. The pizza is fine, not great, the service is indifferent, the dining room typically Swiss, dark wood. Interestingly, a lot of locals eat here and are warmly greeted. I have to give Restaurant Pizzeria Steinbock 6 points as it really is nothing special. Prices, for the area, are not bad. And we had decent beer.
Moving to the French-speaking part of Switzerland, we found another fine-dining approach to pizza: white tablecloths, attached to the opera house. This is Restaurant du Theatre. The menu is quite high-end (foie gras or partridge anyone?) and goes well beyond pizza, but you know why we were there. Despite our proletarian tastes, the host and servers treated us with quiet deference. They should: pizzas averaged $24 per person! Wine-by-the-glass was also expensive at $7.50 per deciliter (about 3.4 ounces). We can down a deciliter in no time. Gulp.
Was it good? Yes, indeed it was! The pizzaiola was right there in the dining room with his wood-fired oven churning out pies for an appreciative audience. Maybe not the best crust and the sauce was a little bland, but overall a fine product in a lovely space. Although the restaurant has a high-end feel and menu, if they did not serve pizza there would have been very few diners. From a single diner reading a book over his pizza to a lively family of five with a few two-tops as well, pizza dominated the food orders. I shudder to think what the bill was for the family of five!
Restaurant du Theatre gets 8 points: service a 3, ambiance a 3, and for the pizza, 2.
For now, pizza eating will take a backseat to healthier eating at Casa Barton. Seven weeks of travel takes a toll.