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Pizza Renaissance

New Favorites from Postmodern Pies to White Versions

The explosion in the number of pizzerias became a national phenomenon in France in the 1980s. Pizza was equally popular across the pond in the U.S., where Wolfgang Puck invented the designer version, and today pizza is everywhere, offered by the slice in the streets and delivered to the homes of the hungry. Who would have thought that these humble pies, sold hot in the streets of Naples in the eighteenth century, would become such a staple in our modern diet?

In Paris, city planning regulations forbid setting up brick ovens, tolerating only already existing installations. So forget about the inimitable smell of pizza cooked in those fiery hearths. Nevertheless, there is good pizza to be had, from trendy and postmodern to classic white with a twist, as the following restaurants prove:

La Pizzetta

La Pizzetta, on avenue Trudaine in Paris, is the latest in a slew of "fashionable" pizzerias. The décor and menu design are elegant, gray and minimalist. You’ll find a dozen pizze, cooked in an electric oven. The margherita is the only "classical" pizza, showing the colors of the Italian flag. Salami and fennel, Parmigiano, pear and prosciutto di Parma, red pepper and basil, eggplant and sun-dried tomatoes are the new toppings, providing flavors that slightly veer from traditional tastes. A good find at La Pizzetta is the organic whole-meal pizza. Orchestrated by a talented pizzaïolo, it underlines the tastes and colors of the quality ingredients, and is topped with tomatoes, mozzarella and asparagus, all covered with a thin layer of Colonnata bacon. La Pizzetta, 22, av. Trudaine, 75009 Paris, +33 (0)1 48 78 14 08.

The ultimate pizza of pizze is, of course, not on the menu: the white pizza, the one you can only dream about. We’re not talking about pizza “al tartufo,” with tomato, mozzarella, basil and white truffle oil, with its dreadful synthetic aroma. No, we are referring to the original pizza. Before the addition of the tomato brought back by Christopher Columbus, at the end of the Middle Ages, pizza was the local adaptation of an Anatolian recipe for "pide," which means bread.

The white pizza of lore gets a postmodern twist at Maria Luisa, a Parisian pizza temple, just nearby the Canal Saint-Martin. Made in an electric oven, it is topped with cheese and Italian green lettuce such as arugula, whose slight bitterness counterbalances the usually bland taste of the tomato paste so often used by undiscerning restaurant owners. Maria Luisa, 2, rue Marie et Louise, 75010 Paris, +33 (0)1 44 84 04 01.

The pizza tradition is still very much alive around the Mediterranean. Chez Etienne, a place where each patron has a favorite, in the Panier area of Marseille, has been faithful to its origins since 1943. “My father was already preparing pizza,” says joyful owner Etienne Cassaro. His restaurant is simply named “Pizzaria” and it offers the best pizza in Marseille. Pizzaria, Quartier du Panier, Marseille, no telephone; credit cards not accepted.

Peasant

Across the Atlantic in New York City, where you can find pizza of all kinds, colors and toppings (even grapefruit), Frank DeCarlo, a fiery New Yorker, operates Peasant, an extraordinary pizzeria right in the heart of Little Italy. In a red brick garage dating from the Prohibition period he installed large, candlelit tables previously used in a convent. From the dining room area, one can observe the kitchen where the chef uses a wood oven to grill meat and cook pizza the way it is done in Abruzzo. Peasant, 194 Elizabeth St., between Spring and Prince Streets, 212-965-9511, www.peasantnyc.com.

Top 10 Pizzas in New York City

Additional hot spots:

Casa Cristo, 20, rue Pierre Leroux, 75007 Paris, +33 (0)1 45 67 86 07
Al Dente, 38, rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris, +33 (0)1 45 48 79 64
Grand Bar Restaurant des Goudes, 28, rue Désiré Pellaprat, Marseille, +33 (0)4 91 73 43 69


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(Updated: 09/10/10 NW)
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