Pizza Riva

When an old coworker of mine sent me an email recently and told me of this new(ish) pizza restaurant in the 9th, my mouth began to water. It had been a while since I had had a good pizza and well, once I got the idea of this restaurant and its promise of pillowy dough, crispy crusts, melted mozzarella and succulent tomatoes in my head, I couldn’t get it out. I booked a table as soon as I could to spare myself and all those around me from pizza craving-induced hysteria. It was the right thing to do.

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Right. Essentially, the only word I can use to describe pretty much everything at Pizza Riva. From its location in the 9th adjacent to a pretty little park, to its casually hip ambience and cool industrial interior, to its friendly service, to its pizza–oh my god to its pizza–the place is meraviglioso (exaggerated hand motions and all).

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The pizza at Riva is authentic Neapolitan. This means something. Folks from this part of the world are truly cut from a different cloth; the love and pride they have for their town and its wares and fare is staggering. I was there two years ago with my mother before heading down the Amalfi Coast and I can still hear Antonio, our taxi driver, saying over and over, “Naples is in Florida! You are in Napoli! Capisci?!?”. Yes, Antonio. Capiamo.

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So it’s no wonder that the Napolitanos also take their pizza very seriously. (It was, after all, where pizza was first invented.) In terms of Neapolitan pizza, there are strict rules about the dough and the art of baking it in a wood-fired oven. The dough must be made with a specific wheat flour and it cannot exceed a diameter of 35cm or be more than a third of a cm thick at the center. Tomatoes should be San Marzano tomatoes, which grow on the volcanic plains near Mount Vesuvius. Standard features include a bubbly crust and a soupy middle. Some people don’t like the sogginess of a traditional Neapolitan pizza. I find it divine. In 2009, upon Italy’s request, Neapolitan pizza was “safeguarded in the EU as a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed dish”. Don’t mess with Napoli.

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The restaurant, as it turns out, actually isn’t new to Wien at all. In fact, you may have eaten ‘here’ and not even known it. It used to be (and still is) a seasonal offering at Summerstage, mobile wood oven and all. Owned by Mr.Alessandro d’Ambrosio, (ahem, ladies, you probably know his shoe stores), it attracted a cult-like following over the years and then opened up permanent shop this past winter. Apparently, the place was packed before the interior was complete and the sign even hung. It’s that good.

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Let’s get down to business. I set off for Riva on a recent Friday night, husband and pup in tow. We browsed the menu while munching on some crudités and extra virgin olive oil. On the house. Though traditional Neapolitan pizza is usually limited to Marinara or Margherita, the menu at Riva is extensive and offers so much more. With creative spins on the classics and a few wildcards,there are 19 different ‘pizze rosse‘ options (with tomato sauce), 11 different ‘pizze bianche‘ options (without tomato sauce) and 4 calzones.

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My husband went with a rosse: the Castel dell’ Ovo: It had Pancetta (that had been air dried for 90 days), egg, pepper, and mozzarella.

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I went with a bianche: the Santa Chiara: It had mozzarella, provola, radicchio (chicory), and gorgonzola cheese. The bitter spice of the chicory combined with the medley of cheese was just beyond. 

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Back in 2009, when it was only to be found at Summerstage, Der Standard called Riva “the best pizza in the capital”. Now with its fixed location in the 9th, it has been said to have given Pizza Mari (another delicious  place with a cult-like following that I haven’t written about yet here on the blog) some serious competition.I’m not here to say that one is better over the other. I just like to celebrate the lip-smacking places I stumble upon. Riva makes the list and is high on it.

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Oh, and then there is this. Pink. Vintage. Pizza. Boxes. Now these are definitively the best in the city.

Pizza Riva
Schlickgasse 2
1090 Vienna
http://www.pizzariva.at/

WIEN MITTE: The Mall

If you took the U4 or S-Bahn through Landstrasse at any point over the past few years, you most definitely dealt with construction. How could you not have? Just like this past winter, that was one Baustelle that seemed it would never ever end.

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Except now it has. Finally! April 25th and 26th mark the grand opening of Vienna’s newest shopping center, WIEN MITTE: THE MALL. Having been in an official ‘soft opening’ since autumn, the entire center is now open for full business. The shops and restaurants are yours for the taking.

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Yes, that’s right, I said restaurants. I personally cannot wait to take advantage. Until now, since it is conveniently located along my husband’s route home from work, I occasionally made use of its grocery offerings by asking my dear Mann to pop into the Spar in the mall for last-minute things because it’s open till 8pm or 9pm on weekdays. There’s also a ‘Spar Pronto’, (like a mini-mart) open till 11pm and on Sundays too! Positively revolutionary, I tell you. Yet now, thanks to its array of restaurants (mostly chain but still), the options are all the more vielfältig. I might have to put in a special request from time to time for something from one of its yummy offerings.

I’m most excited about:

I’m sure some folks (read: my country(wo)men) will flip for the fact that this calorific establishment is also dabei. I can smell the cinnamon-sugar wafting through downtown Vienna already.

The Grand Opening of the mall promises something BIG. What that might be you’ll have to figure out yourself with a visit:)

WIEN MITTE: THE MALL
Landstraßer Hauptstraße 1B
1030 Vienna
http://www.wienmitte-themall.at

La Delizia

At some point over the holiday season, my husband and I were out with friends and happened upon this next restaurant in the 8th after a seemingly endless back and forth of playing the “where should we eat?” game. You know that game? The one where no reservations are made and everyone is ravenous (ahem, especially after a Glühwein or two) yet seems to be in the mood for something different? I know this is a common thing for people with children, yet it happens quite often in my circle of friends. Hmm, about that. After crossing off Indian and sushi (ALL Asian food for the record!), things were not looking up. We then came across La Delizia, a hole-in-the wall Italian place with fragrant smells of garlic, dough, and tomatoes escaping from its door. A quick look at the menu hanging in in the window and the darling interior within and we were sold. We’d found our restaurant.

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Or so we thought. Not a free seat in the house. Every last table had been booked. A letdown, indeed, though the discovery did put a bit of spring in our step; we pressed on, ended up eating at a Mexican place (meh…) and kept La Delizia in mind for another time.

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Good things come to those who wait, my mother told me. (Though I’m not sure she was talking about Italian restaurants.) In any case, were her words ever true with this one. Armed this time with a reservation when out to dinner last week with the same friends from the beginning of this saga story made our way back to La Delizia. And? The food was delicious, the atmosphere enchanting, and the service friendly and superb. Just a lovely experience all around, which let’s be honest, is of the necessary kind here in Vienna in February, with its many shades of gray and all.

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The interior is cozy in all the right ways. Dark, candle-lit, and full of happy guests sitting at checkered tables under rounded archways. Another thing about said guests? Italian! So many of them! Two tables near us were full of our friends from the south vivaciously bantering away with the waiter. Turns out the chef of La Delizia is from Naples and many of his ingredients are sourced from home. Looks like the Italians in Vienna have taken note.

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To start the evening, we began with a bowl of mussels. Buttery, garlicky, and with a hint of white wine, these were exquisite.

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Especially when paired with the softest bread which had elements of sourdough and the crispest crust. A second basket may or may not have been ordered.

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Continuing in the carbohydrate direction, I then had a pasta cooked to al dente perfection: fresh orecchiette made with calabrian salami, capers, olives, and buffalo mozzarella. This was just the right amount, served the authentic way (portioned as a first course and not as a main).

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My husband went with his usual, the San Daniele, a pizza with prosciutto topped with rucola. Now he’s eaten a lot of San Daniele in his day, even in Italy’s San Daniele Province itself, though I’m not sure that has anything to do with the pizza. I just felt I had to add it. In any case, he would like my dear readers to know that a simple pizza of tomato sauce, cheese, prosciutto, and rucola isn’t always so easy to get right and that this restaurant was able to. I snuck a slice and can only concur.

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To finish, the most scrumptious Stück of tiramisu. The girl in the corner who was technically sharing this dessert, not-so-smoothly scraping her plate to get every last bit of this and its cocoa powder garnish? Guilty.

What a lovely restaurant. As its name means in Italian, a delight.

La Delizia
Florianigasse 19
1080 Vienna
http://www.la-delizia.net

That’s Amore

This past weekend in Vienna was cold. It was dry hands, wool socks, car won’t start, chapped lips, long underwear, tea-drinkin’, soup makin’, fear of leaving the house COLD. Far too cold for this California girl. I know it’s Austria, but in the four and a half years that I’ve lived here, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced temperatures so low! Bad timing, too, because this coincided with the first time in a long time that I actually wanted to leave the house! I’ve been fighting one virus or another since the first week of January, and this weekend was when I finally began to turn the corner. My husband and I decided to head out, but we knew something warm, filling, and hearty had to be on the menu.

I heard about That’s Amore from a colleague, and it’s been on my list for a while now. I was actually supposed to go last month; we had a reservation and everything, but our neighbors spontaneously invited us over for a glass of wine, which of course turned into glasses of wine, and long story short—we never made it that evening. Saturday night, with its negative temperatures and cutting wind, was the perfect night to try again and indulge in warm, cheesy, doughy, delicious…PIZZA.

That’s Amore says it’s per chi ama la cucina Italiana: for lovers of Italian cuisine. A statement that’s spot-on, if I ever heard one. This is some of the best pizza I’ve had in a long time. Equally delicious? The fact that said pizza was served up with friendly service. Google Translator tells me this is what Italians call a doppio smacco. I’d even say this restaurant offers a triplo smacco (which Google Translator says is NOT a word ) because in addition to great food and service, it also has a lovely atmosphere. That’s Amore was extremley clean, cozy, and full of guests who all seemed to know their order without needing menus.  Am I revealing the 3rd district’s best kept secret?

Our order? A pizza for him and a pizza for her, drinks, and a mixed salad on the side.

His: The Diavola for €8,00, with tomato sauce, mozzarella, Grana Padano, Basil, spicy salami, black olives, and olive oil.  This was a meat-lover’s and spice-lover’s pizza. A few bites and the cold snap outside quickly faded.

Grana Padano is a semi-aged hard Italian cheese with a more delicate and less salty taste than Parmigiano.  It’s a better choice if you want to ensure your dish’s other flavors aren’t overpowered.

Hers: The That’s Amore: € 9,90. Their signature pizza, it has tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, Grana Padano, basil, olive oil, and a ricotta-stuffed crust.

Oh yes, you read that right.  The crust is. stuffed. with. ricotta. Warm, creamy ricotta. Perfect. I actually didn’t even spot this when I selected the pizza—I was more focused on the classic tomato basil combo to notice. It was such a pleasant surprise—this pizza was straight up comfort food on such a bitterly cold night.

And to wash it all down? A San Pellegrino Limonata for me…

…and an Amore Spritzer for  him. (Their take on an Aperol Spritzer.)

And to top off the night? A little sweet. The most delectable lemon candy. Ah, La Dolce Vita.

It certainly won’t take another cold snap for me to pay That’s Amore another visit. That’s for sure.

That’s Amore
Messenhausergasse 13
1030 Vienna
http://www.thatsamore.at/

Monte Christo

As much as I love the element of surprise when trying a new place to eat, there is also something deeply comforting in the familiar–a favorite local jaunt, where you know what to expect, whom to expect it from, and how it will be. I think having this with places to dine out is necessary, as consistency and ritual are just as important to me as caprice and mystery. I like a bit of both!

One such place where I relish in the comfort of familiarity is Monte Christo in the 19th district.  It’s a lovely, charming, delicious Italian restaurant that consistently serves up some of the most delicious homemade pizza and pasta in town.

Located on the Döblinger Hauptstrasse, Döbling’s main street which is home mostly to bakeries, grocery stores, a fur shop, and the random 2nd hand shop or two, it’s a welcome addition to a street not too known in Vienna for its variety of food options.  Since it’s in the north of the city, it’s also a relatively quiet place.  I don’t usually ever have trouble getting a table.  It’s a peaceful, smoke-free(!) restaurant–an all around pleasant place to be.

And the food? Outstanding. They never do wrong!  A most recent visit with my husband and a friend featured:

Frutti di Mare con Vino Bianco: Pasta with various sea food in tomato sauce, garlic, and white wine. €9.90.

Pizza Pecorino: Tomatoes, cheese, feta cheese, onions, olives, spicy peppers, corn, and oregano. €7.80

The Special: pasta with large prawns, garlic, herbs, and…..pumpkin(!!!)  I think this was around €12.

Mmmm.  Reasonable portions, the perfect balance of flavors.  Every time.  And of course, ever the creature of habit, I like a good Italian meal to end with:

tiramisu. Monte Christo’s homemade tiramisu, to be exact. €4.80

Three forks please! La Dolce Vita, indeed.

Monte Christo
Döblinger Hauptstr. 34
1190 Vienna
http://www.montechristo.co.at

*First photo taken from Monte Christo website.