In Berlin pizza is often a convenience food – cheap, quick and eaten on the go. In the past year, though, a couple of nicer restaurants have sprung up serving the real-deal Neapolitan version of the oft-bastardised Italian snack. And while the party line seems to favour the greasy, overpriced Standard in Prenzlauer Berg, we submit that Zola, on the leafy banks of Paul-Linke-Ufer, is the true pizza champ.
The menu is refreshingly simple: They have eight pizzas, with a few changing daily according to mood and season (salsiccia e friarielli, at the moment). There’s an excellent Margherita (€7.50), buffalo mozzarella (€9.00), and, our favourite, The Parma (€9.50), topped with hand-cut Parma ham and rocket salad. And finally a Marinara done right: delicious tomato sauce, basil, anchovies, a touch of garlic and NO CHEESE. It’s hands-down the best we’ve had in Berlin!
Of course it all comes down to the dough. Nothing beats the intense heat and smokey flavour that comes from a proper wood-burning oven, and Zola boasts one of the very few real ones in Berlin – a huge, beautiful, tiled thing where pizzas are baked at 450-500 degrees for 90 seconds max. They come out piping hot with slightly dark and crispy edges and a perfect thin, springy and bubbly texture in the centre.
They follow what owner Łukasz Sołowiej calls the traditional recipe from Napoli: “flour, yeast, water, salt and passion.” The man is actually a mathematician and musician from a small town in Poland – as a child, all he knew of pizza came from watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Neapolitan pizza in Berlin may have come a long way, and not always from Naples!
Every Friday, they bake delicious sourdough bread you can buy for home (€3-€6; currently on hold and set to resume in January or February), they began roasting their own coffee in mid-November, and once they have finished installing a bar early next year, will add desserts like tiramisu and panna cotta to their minimalist menu.
They recently raised their prices a bit, but we think you’ll agree that this kind of quality is worth it!