Does Berlin really need ANOTHER pizza place? Well, I’d say that entirely depends on what kind of pizza. Over the last years we’ve seen an explosion of new pizza projects in Berlin with an almost exclusive focus (some could call it an obsession) with the Neapolitan style of pizza baking. And yes, this has given birth to a long list of exceptional pizza joints, including personal favourites like Standard, Malafemmena and W Pizza. However, if you weren’t into the thick-crust and moist Neapolitan pizza style, you haven’t really had any choices for high-quality pizza in Berlin (and no, if you’re now thinking “but hey, Due Forni and Il Casolare make good pizzas!” rest assured, they don’t). Gazzo changed that with the introduction of its hybrid pizza bastard – a sourdough pie which lingers somewhere between a Neapolitan thick-crust and Roman thin-crust pizza in style, and in taste somewhere between great and exceptional.
“Does Berlin really need ANOTHER pizza place? Well, I’d say that entirely depends on what kind of pizza.”
The first rumours of a sourdough pizza project in Neukölln left me sceptical as at that time, I was still a die-hard Neapolitan fanboy. My first visit to Gazzo, shortly after its opening, also seemed to confirm my doubts. The dough was too dry, too crunchy and lacked a pleasant, layered texture. Not bad, but really nothing special either. The takeaway was the excellent quality toppings and the good vibes of the restaurant – this place clearly had potential. When I returned six months later though the new head chef, Mikel Plasari, had made sure the pizza had risen to the occasion.
Gazzo founders Mikael Andersen (Norwegian) and Robert Szabo (German) created one of the finest pizza restaurants in Berlin simply because they believed pizza to be the best medium to bring affordable finer dining to the masses. “Think about it,” owner Mikael once told me, “let’s say you want do a high-end burger meaning using free range, grass-fed, organic beef, home-baked bun etc., you would have to charge 20€ for it in order to make any noteworthy profit. With pizza it’s a different thing. You can use fantastic ingredients and still sell it for 8€ – pizza is the most inclusive and democratic fine dining food there is.” He has a point.
Andersen was the one with the vision for Gazzo Pizza, a quiet and nerdy looking Norwegian chef and restaurant consultant with an immense passion for baking and sourdough. Szabo, a charmingly eccentric and extroverted character, with a background in high-end hotel and food (he spent many years at Grill Royal), brought the front-of-house expertise to the project. Together they created a restaurant that mirrors modern day Neukölln with more than a dozen different nationalities in the team and a buzzing atmosphere that attracts people from all over town.
“Pizza is the most inclusive and democratic fine dining food there is.”
Gazzo is situated in the former premises of an Eckkneipe in Kreuzkölln – the hip northern part of Neukölln that borders Kreuzberg. The place oozes charm with its seemingly random collection of styles including vintage furniture, bare brick walls, stone floors, wooden floors, pop art, street art etc. Not to mention the Italian post card installation in the men’s room. Add to all of that a very lively space as Gazzo is open and full seven days a week. Due to the no reservations policy guests line up around the corner, 7 days a week, all for one taste of Berlin’s most talked about pizza.
“..guests line up around the corner, 7 days a week, all for one taste of Berlin’s most talked about pizza.”
The Gazzo sourdough pizza in a nutshell is a pie with a 2-4 cm thick crust with a distinct crunchiness and a hint of sourdough acidity. Not too crunchy, not too soft. The dough is double fermented over 48 hours and uses a mix of Italian and German flours before being baked in an electrical Neapolitan oven at 400 degrees Celsius for 90 seconds. At Gazzo it really doesn’t matter if you go for the red or white pizzas as the ingredients are always top notch and almost exclusively sourced locally. For the reds there’s the legendary red buffalo burrata with spicy salami, chilli and pimientos de padron (a spicy concoction that draws power from the superior quality of the burrata); or the Schwäbisch-Hällisches pork ham, oyster mushrooms, buffalo ricotta, mozzarella and thyme. Noteworthy: The burrata, ricotta and mozzarella are sourced from a local farm in Brandenburg which makes it possible to serve it at the restaurant the day after it’s been produced.
And you most certainly shouldn’t forget the white pizzas. Zucchini, feta, mozzarella, lemon and garlic? Light, acidic pizza and an exceptional taste of summer. Or why not one with pumpkin, bacon, ricotta and mozzarella? Hello autumn! At any given time, there are at least 12 pizzas on offer at Gazzo and at least half of them rotate regularly, much depending on what produce the kitchen get their hand on.
“..ingredients are always top notch and almost exclusively sourced locally”
Gazzo’s biggest problem reflects that of any pizza place, consistency, and I’ve learned that the quality of Gazzo Pizza peaks during warmer days when the oven has been heated for a while, when there’s still a substantial moisture to the dough and the crust is white with evenly scattered burn marks – that’s when you’re in for a real treat. Nowadays though, it’s merely a question of whether you’re served a great pie or an exceptional one, because ‘bad’ has been completely erased from the pizza vocabulary at Gazzo.
Gazzo is much more than just a pizza place and its hype is just as much down to the eclectic vibe, created by a young and colourful team. Then, there’s also the very special dessert, of course. Yes, if you live in Berlin, you’ll probably have seen this pop up in your Instagram feed – the Buffalo Milk Soft Serve, drizzled with peppery olive oil and salt and served with crumbled shortbread. It was this cup of soft serve which really tipped the Gazzo hype over the edge. Deservedly, you ask? Oh yes, this dessert truly touches the realms of perfection. The Gazzo guys accidentally realised that the Buffalo milk from their mozzarella supplier had the perfect natural fat content for soft serve (7%) and the result speaks for itself. Going to Gazzo without having the soft serve is like going to McDonald’s and not having a cheeseburger – you’ll be OK, but you’re definitely missing the best thing.
“Oh yes, this dessert truly touches the realms of perfection.”
As Gazzo now enters its second year, I’m confident its legend will continue to grow. There is a massive, unsatisfied hunger for thin-crust pizza in Berlin and the guys from Gazzo have successfully solved the mystery whilst also creating an iconic dessert. The frequently asked question of how Gazzo ranks alongside the top Neapolitan style pizza places in Berlin, is pointless, I don’t believe it makes sense to compare these styles and they both have their place. Instead, I celebrate the growing diversity of Berlin’s pizza scene – what a time to be alive for an old-school pizza nerd like myself.