Neapolitan pizza hit a high note when we took our first bite and fell in love last night.
Look down at knee level or you will miss the sign for the entrance to this tucked away gem of a restaurant, ZOLA. We had tried several times to get a table, but had been turned away as a late arrival and it is a popular spot. Determination is key, and who is going to give up on a pizza place that might just make pizza your most favorite meal? Not us! We went on a Thursday night, around 8pm (they stop serving at 9pm). Scouted, hovered, spotted a lone wolf at a table, and gave a long glare. After a few minutes, he admitted defeat and got up to wait for the rest of his party to arrive. It was a good 15-20 minutes before his group walked through the door, and our pizza had hit the table by then. Perhaps we showed our gratitude in the gregarious eating that ensued.
Hot, bubbly cheese and sauce, nestled in a wood-fired charred crust was quickly cut into pieces and we did something we rarely do in Europe – we ate with our hands. The pizza arrived on 12″/30cm size plates, no individual ones to put the pieces on, and sharing was the plan. One cut, three grabbed, and before the photographer had a chance to get a full pie photo, each had been partially devoured. But we looked upon it as a good sign.
Kreuzberg is a part of Berlin that is well on it’s way to the blend of old and new Berlin. It is largely a Turkish neighborhood, dotted with falafel, kebab and düner shops (we are still testing and will do a write-up at a later date). Kottbusser Damm is the cross street and along the Paul Linke Ufer side is restaurant row. Several have been tried, and if you are looking for the best bang for your buck, Zola’s is the one to choose.
We were a group of 4 and started with three pizzas. One member was excessively hungry, so a 4th was added. With 2 bottles of robust, red Italian wine, the bill was about 75€ ($85). The bill could have been lower, but who would want to top off sweet tomato, fresh mozzarella cheese topped pizza with water?
Neapolitan Pizza vs Other Pizza
Neapolitan style pizza is made with relatively simple ingredients. The “sauce” is tomatoes. Slightly sweet and delicately tangy, tomatoes are the backdrop for each pizza. From the basic Marguerita to the Bufalina to the Anchovy, caper, topped one, the flavors were clean, bright and blended beautifully on the palate. Sweet, salty, pure. No complex sauces, overly-spiced backgrounds or toppings appeared on any of the pizzas to cloud a subtle flavoring of another ingredient.
New York style pizza is frequently referred to as having evolved out of Neapolitan style pizza. While we are native New Yorker’s, and pizza is standard fare when there, many of the New York pizzerias make a sauce with seasonings, thus making a flavored base. With the rise of brick oven/wood fired pizza shops, the added dimension of freshly charred crust can make a big difference in taste.
At Zola, the menu states that the pizza is cooked a mere 90 seconds, so when you order, it really does hit the table at a rapid pace. The longest wait is for a table. The decor is rustic and is the perfect setting for the pizza eating frenzy. Benches, a fish-mash of wooden chairs and a variety of tables, fill the front room that overlooks the pizza oven and the larger back room. Waitstaff weaves through the lively crowds of the cozily bustling rooms. Even though the din is on the boisterous side, the acoustics allowed for talking in normal voices with our eating companions. The exposed stone from the old building is a step back into the historical construction of the old being repurposed for new. The gusts of cold air (we went on a winter’s eve) from new arrivals coming through the door brought a fresh waft of pizza as they were pulled from the oven and plated. As is typical on German restaurant tables, the silverware and napkins were in a bucket at the far end of the table. Nothing fancy here. And nothing to cloud the taste of pure, clean pizza.
If you closed your eyes as you took a bite of Zola’s pizza, you could swear you were in Italy. Ciao!
Where to find it:
Paul-Linke-Ufer 39-40, Berlin, Germany
+49 01514 3596561 (They take reservations for parties of more than 4)
(Tt is located in the back of the buildings that face the river, so you do have to walk inside an inner courtyard.)
To learn more and check on their hours:
Learn more about Berlin: