Pizzas never went out of style, but these days it’s puffy-crusted pies or nothing. Here are four newbies to try.
Best pastries: Nea Pizza 1889
This is how ridiculous the pizza situation in this city has become: when someone says, “Meet me at the new Neapolitan pizzeria across from the German federal intelligence headquarters,” you have to ask, “Which one?” Nea Pizza 1889 and the very un-Googleable Pizzeria opened several months apart on the same bleak-looking stretch of Chausseestraße, the former a tiled takeout nook just barely bigger than its Izzo oven, the latter a slick beige-bricked date spot with a full bar. At Pizzeria, flashy combos like the truffle-scented Della Casa Bianca and the egg yolk-topped Fiorentina can’t make up for a too-salty crust.
Nea Pizza 1889, on the other hand, is as religiously Italian as Silvio Orlando in The Young Pope, with a performance to match. Chef Oscar Eisa and most of his staff were born and raised in Naples, and every ingredient gracing the chewy, blistered dough comes straight from the motherland – from the organic olive oil on the exemplary Queen Margherita to the Cetara anchovies and wild Sicilian oregano spicing up the Napule. And while sweets at most pizzerias are an afterthought, the traditional pastries baked here will make your nonna sigh with recognition. Pick up a ricotta and candied-orange tart for dessert, and a cornetto or two for tomorrow morning.
Chausseestr. 49, Mitte, daily 8-22
Best pop-up: Jaja
Have you heard of the Roccbox? It’s a portable UFO-looking gizmo that heats up to nearly 500 degrees, and it’s the reason why you’re suddenly seeing pizza at restaurants that never had it before. That includes places like the natural wine bar Jaja in Reuterkiez, whose former chef and new co-owner Hannes Broecker has been firing up absolutely stellar pies on an irregular basis since late November. The crust is sourdough, flavourful and chewy-crisp, but it’s the ingenious, always-changing, local, seasonal and artisanal topping combos that keep Neuköllners coming back for more.
Depending on the weekend, your pizza might come with homemade sauerkraut and sustainably caught Nordic sardines, morel mushrooms and cheese from Brandenburg dairy Urstrom Kaese, or – the one that won me over – a spicy-meaty-earthy mix of fennel salami, padron peppers, buffalo mozzarella and hot sauce. Locavore scene star Otto has been doing something very similar across town, but for the price (€10 versus €12-15) and risk of the pizza selling out before you get there (low versus considerable), Jaja gets the nod.
Weichselstr. 7, Neukölln, check @jaja.berlin on Instagram for next pizza dates
Best pregaming: Gambino’s Pizza and Highballs
For a place that sounds like it belongs in a strip mall off the New Jersey interstate, Gambino’s Pizza and Highballs takes its food seriously. Head pizzaiolo Robert D’Elia has made the rounds from Cecconi’s in Soho House to Moabit gem Mangiare, and he’s got the crust to show for it: perfectly formed and ultra-light, an ideal canvas for tangy tomato sauce and smoked mozzarella or a gut-busting four-cheese blend with knife-like shards of baked Parmesan.
It’s not for vegans – the sole meatless, cheeseless pie on the menu, the Vegana, is a rather sad affair – and Futura up the road might have a better overall product. But given Gambino’s club-and bar-adjacent location, its scene pedigree (the tatted-up, Naples-born owner was last seen co-running Mitte BBQ and nightspot Chicago Williams) and those highballs (basically long drinks served in smaller glasses), expect it to be a whole lot of fun once restaurants are back in full swing.
Sonntagstr. 30, Friedrichshain, daily 12-21
Best promise: Mamida
Those who unleash strings of Italian curses at the sight of pineapple on pizza should probably avoid Prenzlauer Berg’s Mamida. The menu starts with margherita and marinara, then immediately veers into wilder territory: pickled pears, crumbled almond tarallo (mini breadsticks), or – vaffanculo! – pulled pork and pineapple ketchup. Blame former Gazzo head chef Mikel Plasari, who’s going for a “contemporary international” vibe with this new project and stresses that his pizza is not Neapolitan, despite sharing some crust similarities.
About that crust: it’s sourdough, a new formula developed with the help of a chemist, and dominates to the point where I had to ponder whether I was eating pizza or puffy-edged flatbread with stuff sprinkled on it. But there was something alchemically delicious about the combination of celeriac veloute, wild garlic pesto and truffle oil on the vegan Truffle Sensation, or the pureed asparagus, bacon spread (from Gazzo salsiccia supplier The Sausage Man Never Sleeps) and violet-coloured potato chips on the Purple Jam. Toppings change every few months, and you can bet I’ll be back to see what else the crew has in store.
Dunckerstr. 80a, Prenzlauer Berg, Tue-Sun 17-22
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