The Best of Beirut
on Feb 18, 2015 By Danielle Issa
What is the most universally recognized foodstuff in the world? I’m willing to hedge a few buckaroos on pizza. Almost anywhere you travel, you’re likely to be understood if you utter the word “pizza.”
Even if it’s not the traditional Italian pizze that we all know and adore, you’ll probably find a local version of the doughy discus (Lebanese have their manakish; Armenians, their lahmajun, etc.).
Beirut is not scant on Italian pizzeria, and several can lay claim to a first-rate pie. Here are our favorites, and we hope they quickly become yours, too.
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TSC Signature boasts a wood-fired oven for manakish at breakfast and pizza the remainder of the day. If you come in the afternoon, you’ll meet seasoned Pizzaiolo Hassan Akkary, who’s tossed pies at Aliacci (Gemmayze), La Posta (Achrafieh), and Dottore (Hamra).
He’s got a slew of off-menu specials—simply mention my name and prepare for royal treatment! His latest creation features lightly-fried skin-on eggplant slices, heaps of mozzarella, crumbled goat cheese, white onions, fresh cherry and sun-dried tomatoes, and rosemary for garnish.
Margherita has made a name for itself in Lebanon. What started as a narrow casual pizzeria in Gemmayzeh with iconic tomatoes piled in the window has blossomed into an array of outlets stretching as far north as Jounieh’s Old Souks. The Italian eatery serves Neapolitan fare reflecting authentic flavors of the South of Italy.
Margherita’s dough, fashioned from wheat flour, brewer’s yeast, salt, and water, is baked to a thin at the center and is thick and crispy at the outer rim. Makes for some ideal anti-slippage dynamics, so be sure you wolf it down sans fork and knife!
*Other locations across Lebanon.
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PZZA.CO, sister restaurant to premium burger haven BRGR.CO, has hands-down the fluffiest, most appetizing rosemary focaccia I’ve ever sampled outside of Rome. Not only did they import Neapolitan pizzaiolo Gennaro Capuano to man the wood-fired oven, a myriad of ingredients are also shipped in from the boot-shaped country to mimic the real deal.
For something fresh and novel, try the “verde,” a crispy, paper-thin pie weighed down beneath half-steamed asparagus stalks, broccoli flowerets, spinach leaves and zucchini shavings all bound together with melted mozzarella. Season to your palate with coarse sea salt and a dash of ground black pepper.
When you step inside Casa di Toto in Mar Mikhael, you’ll be swept away by the modern black-and-white-themed décor contrasted by aged yellow limestone walls and arches reminiscent of a 15th-century church. You’d never think a casual pizza could be had here, but it can, and boy is it scrumptious!
A thin crust that’s far from being sopped in sauce miraculously holds all the toppings in place, and “less is more” is the name of the game here, with just the right dose of premium, flavor-intense ingredients. Try the Tartufona with its delicate buffalo mozzarella, fresh mushrooms, black truffle cream, Italian sausage, and sharp parmesan shavings.
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Mention “Italian,” “pizzeria,” and “Hamra” all in one sentence, and you’ll almost certainly prompt “Dottore” as a response. Not a soul who purports to be a connoisseur in Italian cuisine hasn’t heard of the place, and here’s why: the food is simply authentic and authentically simple, and the pizza—my God, the pizza!—well, it is something else.
If you’re a fan of calzone, then Dottore is the place to have it, because it comes oozing with rich tomato sauce (both inside and atop the crescent-shaped pizza pocket), copious amounts of mozzarella, and a sprig of fresh basil. Amore!
Antoine Gemayel Street
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Danielle Issa is a food blogger in Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Beirutista.
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