On Czech food… or how to have a good pizza in Prague

Raise your hands if you would have thought of finding good Neapolitan pizza in Prague.

Usually, people that coPork Kneeme to Prague go through 3 stages with regards to food:

Stage 1: Curious. You’ve just landed and you’re almost aggressively on the lookout for a true Czech food experience, you have this romantic view of a wooden, old, charming tavern that cooks genuine food like after grandma recipes. You look forward to trying something new and exciting, and you might even be lucky and end up in one of the few restaurants that make well cooked traditional food. Usually the dish is going to be meat-based, with

some kind of sauce on top and maybe some potato or bread dumplings to soak in the sauce. Wash everything down with a nice Czech beer. In most cases you’re going to have an average experience with the food and if you’re a really big beer fan be shocked by how good a commonly available beer tastes.

Stage 2: Feeling tired. You’re on your third day here, maybe you’re visiting Prague in the nice season, you’d like to have something light but you see everywhere restaurants advertising their menu of the day (little secret: it’s the only menu of the year, it never changes) consisting of a choice of goulash, pork knee or sausages. You still feel bloated with the pork knee you had the night before, you scream for something normal, that will not make you feel completely knocked out after 30 min.

Stage 3: Aversion. Now you’re having nightmares with ribs, pork knees, horseradish and dumplings chasing you. You had to have Becherovka to help digestion and knock yourself to sleep the night before. You don’t want to have a hot soup in August: you just want a little salad dressed with some simple olive oil and a small basket of white bread or a well cooked pasta dish with some plain tomato sauce and that odd leaf of basil sitting on the top.

So my suggestion to the tourists is: don’t even try to pretend Czech food is any good. Do yourself a favor and skip it entirely, or if you really feel like a champ go to eat a well cooked pork knee or honey ribs at U Sudicka, or have a small goulash at U Ferdinanda. Don’t stress yourself too much over having a Czech gastronomic experience because if there is one thing that was completely blown away by the Velvet Revolution, at least in Prague restaurants, is a passion for service and food cooked with love. Of course I’m generalizing here, but after 4+ years in Prague I have yet to find a place that serves traditional food that could be said to be on par with the good international restaurants, of which there are plenty.

But this post, let’s not forget it, is about pizza. The best thing about pizza is that, besides tasting great and having popular prices, you can have it all day, every day and that the places that offer good pizza also have good pasta dishes so that if your travel partners don’t feel like pizza they’ll at least have a rich menu to choose from.

So, on to the meat… pardon, the pizza, of this article.

Ambiente Pizza Nuova
The only place in Prague to have an official Pizza Napoletana license. The crust is thick on the edge and thin in the body of the pizza. They use only real San Marzano tomatoes which results in a tomato sauce that is bright red and tastes fresh: if you never had anything like this you’ll feel the difference immediately. Plus you can have pizza with mozzarella di bufala. The service is very good, fast, friendly. The place boasts an impressive wine list representing wines from almost all regions in Italy. The choice is not too wide both for pizza or pasta but everything is well cooked and the panna cotta with hot dark chocolate is to die for! If you’re feeling really hungry they have an very reasonably priced all-you-can-eat option for pizza and pasta called Italian Degustation Menu.

Address: Ambiente Pizza Nuova, Revoluční 1, Praha 1

Pepe Nero
At the end of Pařížská, the boutique shopping street that goes from Old Town SquarePepe Nero Prague towards the river, is this place that sometimes even long-time Prague residents ignore. Well, this is one of the best pizza in town. You’ll find that the pizza estimators population in Prague tends to be either on the Ambiente camp or on the Pepe Nero camp.
Pepe Nero makes a variant of the Neapolitan-style pizza that is a little thinner on the edges but not a bit less delicious. The ingredients are really high quality but the offer for both pizza and pasta is definitely wider here than in Ambiente. Service is good and attentive: think of it as a typical Italian restaurant sans the cliché, this is what pizzerias look like in Italy.

Address: Pepe Nero, Bílkova 4, Praha 1 and Vinohradska 83, Prague 2

Rugantino
Rugantino deserves a mention too; although as an average it’s not on par with the other pizza places we mentioned, it’s not too far either. But the reason it deserves to be listed among the best pizzeria is for a speciality of theirs called Calzone Noemi (in the picture) that should well be high in your mind when you want to stay on the light side. Calzone Noemi is nothing like typical pizza and nothing like a traditional calzone either. In fact you could think about it more like a light version of piadina without all the fat that goes in the piadina dough: it’s a pizza crust that is bended over itself but not closed. The ingredients are added fresh only once the crust has been cooked: prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, rucola and optionally a touch of chili or garlic flavoured olive oil. It’s a real hook once you try it the first time, trust me! Beware of the extra-hot chili oil, just add a few drops or you’ll have to call the fire-department to extinguish the fire in your mouth!

Address: Pizzeria Rugantino, Dušní 4, Praha 1

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9 comments
Martina
Martina

What do you expect from restaurants whose only interest is money? Ask a friend to cook a proper home-made meal for you and you might be surprised. I don't know what country you come from but in normal czech families they at least have a warm, properly prepared dinner and the family manages to sit down and talk unlike other European nations and their disguisting chemical meal bought in Tesco.

numenius
numenius

Just one thing. As a local i can agree, that czech so called traditional food is quite hard to digest. The only thing is that these kind of foods you have in every single tourist focused restaurant are feast foods. so they are heavy, and greasy, cuz people are eating them on sundays, or not even so often. And the other thing: passion for service and food cooked with love weren´t completely blown off by Velvet Revolution, they were blown off during 40 years of comunism, while you were working in restaurant where owner was state agency, so nobody made you work hard, be kind to people, nobody cared if guests came back or not, you were sure, that you´re gonna have your poor salary for 8 hours spent in work whether you were kind to people and making food with love, or being an asshole (cuz noone tiped you anyway) and stealing the meat and other foodstuff from the storage. but i liked the text anyway :-)

Knedlikova
Knedlikova

"Now you’re having nightmares with ribs, pork knees, horseradish and dumplings chasing you." Had to laugh at that bit! I went through all the phases above in the last four years and put on so much weight in my first 12 months - back to being in shape again now that I only have Czech food (which I still like - especially in winter!) just every once in a while... :-)) Great start to the blog and looking forward to reading more...

Lily
Lily

Dear Martina, you should accept that cz restaurants don't have a good service and even less a good meal. When WE PAY a good money for it, we expect to have a good return too. Darling, all restaurants are interested only in money but the international ones not only charge the same prices as the czech ones but provide far better quality of food.

virgil
virgil

Hi Martina, thanks for stopping by. I guess British have especially bad eating habits but from a country like Czech Republic that prides itself of it's simple roots I would have expected a bit more pride for homemade, locally produced food and maybe a bit more variety than the one I've found. This was all I was saying really. When I go to Czech supermarkets I'm horrified by the bad quality food on offer and somewhat surprised nobody is taking issue about it: everybody seems to be perfectly comfortable with pre-cut ham on display for days that is so bright pink it glows in the dark, with vegetables that are so clean they probably never saw soil in their life (and of course taste nothing like the real thing), etc...

virgil
virgil

@nomenius thanks, I guess you're right it was the Communism's fault, but what strikes me is that it's taking so much time to get back that pride and excellence that made of Prague probably the best place to live in the 19th/early 20th century when Kafka was walking these streets. I guess that part of the fault now for not having got that sparkle back is due to the Capitalism (funny, ins't it? they're two sides of the same coin) that bought everything thinking they could just go on forever milking tourists. I'm glad that the crisis has forced someone to reconsider this "business model" and forced a focus back on quality and customer service, the future now looks a little brighter! ;-)

virgil
virgil

Thanks Knedlikova! ;-)

numenius
numenius

unfortunately you´re so damn right...

numenius
numenius

thats true, in past two years many places focused on quality or at least originality instead of price and quantity... i never thought about it before

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