Berlin has always been a pizza-loving city, a deep and uninterrupted affection that dates back to the 1960s when Italians pioneered the concept of immigrant food in a post-war Germany. Ever since, the innumerable “Nachbarschaftsitaliener” (neighbourhood Italians) across the Republic have made sure to nourish this affection, establishing pizza at the top of everybody’s favourite meal ranking. In Berlin, pizza has played countless roles over the years from the classic, Italian restaurant version to the sliced square from the Turkish street food joint and, most recently, the hip manifestations of an artisanal food movement. Naming Berlin’s best pizzas from the myriad of available choices is far from a trivial task.
Naming Berlin’s best pizzas from the myriad of available choices is far from a trivial task
Pizza is one of those dishes that brings everybody to the table, from young and old, vegan and omnivore, rich and poor. Who doesn’t love a good pizza served fresh out of a hot oven with a perfect crust, melted cheese, eaten on the spot or delivered to your home? As someone who (literally) grew up on frozen pizza and who dragged their parents to countless pizza joints across the planet (sorry mum and dad), I like to think that I can speak out of lived experience. Yes, my life has been an ode to pizza and as a dedicated devourer of thousands of pies, I now offer you my guidance for a trip deep down the rabbit hole of Berlin pizza.
One might think since Berlin’s pizzaiolos have had 60 years to perfect their art, Berlin’s pizza would have had a long streak of greatness. Unfortunately, this is very far from the truth. I’d actually argue the exact opposite and would even go as far as saying the pizza game in Berlin pre 2015 was notably shit, a problem caused by Berlin’s classic, lethargic condition of low standards and extreme price sensitivity, known to let development in certain food niches suspend entirely. For years I watched the same, substandard pizza slingers get praised to the skies for their lousy baking with even lousier ingredients and it drove me nuts.
But then just like that, something changed and Berlin’s expat restaurateurs sensed a massive, untapped potential within new-age pizza baking. In 2015, over the course of just a few months, Standard in Prenzlauer Berg opened alongside Zola in Kreuzberg, redefining Berlin’s pizza standards, just like that. A year later, Malafemmena in Friedenau opened, founding what I like to call the great “Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Wave” of Berlin (don’t look it up, I just made that up) and establishing an elevation in quality pizza baking which echoed across the city and slowly started dividing Berliners into two teams. The reason for this division was the Neapolitan’s soft, thick-crust pizzas which featured meticulously sourced ingredients from artisanal producers in Italy, blazed to charred perfection for 60 seconds in monstrous, imported ovens at 450 degrees. It was the crust and the softness of the pie bottom that divided people, especially Germans who seemed to have some sort of deep set aversion imprinted into their DNAs against thick pizza crusts and I encountered more than my fair share of self-declared pizza lovers who’d happily stuff their face with the cheapest, industrial mozzarella-from-hell, just as long as it came on a thin and crispy crust.
For years I watched the same, substandard pizza slingers get praised to the skies for their lousy baking with even lousier ingredients and it drove me nuts.
My personal revelation of the sheer existence of an artisanal pizza movement overshadowed any doubt but even I had to admit that for a while, the only option for a quality pizza in Berlin was Neapolitan-style. Luckily, in 2018 we saw the second wave of artisanal pizza baking emerge led by Neukölln’s sourdough pizza bakers, Gazzo, followed later by restaurants such as California-style pizza bakers, St. Bess, as well as Estelle and, most recently, shops like the New York-style slice makers, Magic John’s.
Today, Berlin is a modern pizza metropolis and new pizza makers keep popping up on every corner. There is now an offering of quality pizzas across a wide range of styles, providing countless ways to enjoy spectacular pizza around the clock, regardless of your preferences. I’d go as far as saying that Berlin has one of, if not the, richest pizza scenes in Europe in terms of quality and variety right now, a title I see as only being contested by London.
I’ve spent the last years researching the topic and the time has come to present the updated list of the best pizzas in Berlin. This is by no means a finished list, more than a handful places are hovering on the fringe of it and might make it onto the list in the future. There are also a few, very promising pop-up projects without fixed locations that I’ve chosen to not include here. As always, this list is as alive as Berlin’s pizza scene, so make sure to check back here for regular updates. When it comes to judging standards, equal emphasis is put on toppings and dough, with a slight bias towards high quality toppings.
Now, go forth and devour all those pizzas.
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