The Pizza Problem in Paris

February 20, 2009

Though it’s been a good twenty-five years now, I am still recovering from the shock I experienced during the course of a meal at Pizza Pino on the Champs Elysees. Why, you’re surely wondering, would anyone eat pizza in Paris? Well it was a rainy Sunday night in August, and Mom and Dad, with the four of us in tow, decided to take the low road and head for the pizzeria just around the corner from our hotel in the rue Marignan. We’d eaten in bistros for the previous five nights, and with the rain and the effort of trying to find anything French open on a Sunday in August, the siren sound of the local pizzeria was heard and answered.

What ensued was an experience of communal familial hilarity that was never to be repeated. I mean after all, coming from Connecticut, we know our pizza, and so the menu at Pizza Pino was so utterly demented that we had trouble keeping a straight face when the waiter came to take our order. It was tough, in fact, to decide which was the weirdest pizza on this menu. Maybe the Pizza Hawaiian with PINEAPPLE slices!? Or the one with the fried eggs! Or a topping of salad!!! Clearly, we decided, the French didn’t get pizza at all.

Like most blanket judgements, this one turned out to be wrong–despite the gruff service, I love Pizza Etienne in Marseilles, and in Paris, Pizza Vesuvio in Saint Germain does a perfectly honorable pie for a perfectly reasonable price.

Unfortunately, however, a spate of recent openings in Paris prove that the French still regard the pizza like the gastronomic equivalent of finger painting, with the base being a blank canvas that’s waiting to be enchanced by odd, expensive and sometimes odd and expensive ingredients. A case in point is the teeth-grindingly named Pizza Chic in Saint-Germain. WIth its trying-too-hard rococo decor, absurdly high prices and pizzas garnished with everything from lardo di colonnata (exquisite Italian fatback best eaten raw) and truffles its a casebook study in Gallic pizza vandalism, but Pizza Chic is just one of the latest outbreak of boffo pizzerias in Paris. Al Taglio in the 11th, which serves sheet pizza, is another, along with the truly deranged Alice Pizza in Montmartre, where I encountered a pizza topped with gorgonzola, marscapone, Parmesan, arugula and Balsamic vinegar-raspberry syrup the other day.

If I were the Italian ambassador to France, I’d send Alice Pizza the diplomatic equivalent of a cease-and-desist letter. In the meantime, I’m happy to head for my old standby, which is Pizza Vesuvio in Saint Germain. They bake their pies in a wood-burning bee-hive oven, are graciously willing to add a couple of capers to a Margherita if asked, and serve decent Italian reds by the half-bottle and carafe. They’re also open seven days a week, and so when the pizza urge strikes, it can be easily satisfied by heading for this place, which really is the only pizzeria I’d recommend in Paris.

Pizza Vesuvio, 1 rue Gozlin, 6th, Metro: Saint-Germain-des-Pres.

  • It’s funny that you’d recommend that pizzeria as I’d always thought it was too touristy to even try! I’ll give it a go next time I’m in the area, followed by a freshly cooked crepe au sucre from the stand across the road…

  • alain

    Cher Alexandre,

    vous devriez essayer le "restaurant à Pizza"
    Alice Pizza
    4, rue Dancourt – 75018 Paris – Tel : 01 42 54 29 20

    la carte propose, entrées, pizzas et desserts.
    pas de pâtes, pas viande, pas de poisson… uniquement des pizzas !

  • Joe

    Hi – Just a couple comments in defense of some Parisian pizza. Agreed that some is bad, but some is very good. Hawaiian pizza is normal in the US now, if it wasn’t 25 years ago. It was my daughter’s favorite before we moved here, and it still is.
    I had never had pizza with smoked salmon or pizza quatre fromage (with chevre & bleu) before moving here, and they are my favorites (when done well).
    Ozio’s pizza (Rue St Didier, 16th) is excellent – even with arugula on it!

    Take care….

  • Robert

    Have you tried Pizza Positano on rue des Canettes? It was too crowded last time we tried. We also like Da Pietro Pizza, all within 5 minutes of Vesuvio.

  • You’re totally right for some points but the situation about pizzas in Paris is a bit more complicated than that, if you’ve got time i would take pleasure to explain it to you.

    2 answers straight :

    – Pulcinella
    2, rue Eugène Sue
    75018 Paris
    Tél :

    – Maria Luisa
    2, r. Marie-et-Louise
    75010 PARIS
    T 01 44 84 04 01
    m° Goncourt