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 come 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
At the end of Pařížská, the boutique shopping street that goes from Old Town Square 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 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