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