“You better cut the pizza in four slices because I'm not hungry enough to eat six.” Yogi BerraI just got back from Naples, where I had a truly amazing Pizza Margherita from the famed restaurant, Da Michele. I wrote about it on my blog -- it was so simple, and yet really something special.
That said, I grew up eating New York-style pizzas. And while I can respect and, occasionally, enjoy something different, I'll never love another pizza as I do my home slice.
Much has been written about pizzas in this town. The Prague Post used to have annual best pizza contests. So, I was surprised to find little has been said about Sbarro, which has been in Prague for a few years now.I'm not really sure why I'd never been to the one in Prague before. This was a natural for me -- a chain that started in New York and makes New York-style pizza.
I went to the food court at Palac Flora to check it out.The mall also has McDonald's, KFC, and a variety of quasi-Asian options. It's worth a trip to the bottom level to check out the French patisserie, Paul.Sbarro's serves a number of other kinds of food besides pizza such as pasta, meats, and vegetables. But I had no interest in those.They didn't look nearly as appetizing as what you'd find at an American Sbarro.
They did have a pizza man working out front for the customers to watch.But he's not always out there. A good number of regular pies had already been pre-made and awaited reheating.They also had a number of thick-crust and "stuffed" pizzas filled with meat or vegetables, with a crust folded over the top.I had a specific mission in mind. I told the girl behind the counter I wanted a whole pizza to take back to my office. Her eyes grew wide.
"A whole one?" she asked. "I have to ask." It seemed this had never been done before.
Permission was secured and a large box was found. It was 29 CZK per cheese slice and 39 CZK per pepperoni slice. I got two pepperoni for myself because they didn't have enough cheese slices prepared.The total was 252 CZK.
Back at the office, the response was generally positive. But in the 15 minutes it took me to get there, the pizza had lost almost all of its warmth.
One person liked the generous amount of cheese. Another, an American, admitted being a huge Sbarro fan and said he went as soon as they opened. He still goes regularly.One colleague compared it Domino's.
Here's my take.
This pizza had potential, the sauce and cheese were pretty good, but it suffered on one major count. I've tried it a few times now, and the crust has always been stale from sitting too long. That really killed it for me.
If freshly made, it could be so much better, but I've never had that. In fact, they always seemed to have been sitting around a long time.
Before leaving, I asked the manager if I could have their telephone number so I could call ahead and place an order for pick up.
"No, that's not possible," I was informed. Another strange and unusual request, it seemed.
On another visit, I tried a slice of the stuffed pizza with meat (77 CZK).I liked this the best. It was full of tomato sauce, sausage, pepperoni, and very bready sliced meatballs. Tasty, substantial, and filling.
My last time there, I tried their thick-crust pizza with ham and mushroom (62 CZK).I also stole a somewhat blurry shot of someone else's tray with a thick-crust spinach and mushroom pizza.Maybe it is the closest thing to pan pizza in this town.
I didn't really like mine. The toppings, cheese, and sauce were fine, but the counter girl failed to heat it properly. It was hot on the outer edges and cold in the middle.
Also, the crust was just too thick and bread-like and the topping didn't penetrate down into it. Proper heating might have done the trick, but it just didn't happen.
Call me crazy, but my favorite and most New York-like pizza in Prague is from Pizza Grosso, the small hole-in-the-wall in the nasty passage behind the National Museum. Only 30 CZK for a quarter of a pizza, with often a great, crispy crust on reheating and a well-seasoned sauce.
From some night owls, I've heard claims that Pizza Roma at I.P. Pavlova is better. But I don't buy it.
Places like Rugantino's can be OK, but it's just too European for me. My brain was imprinted from an early age to fly in New York pizza formation. There's little I can do about it now.
My feeling about the Sbarro at Flora is one of great disappointment.
With proper preparation and attention to detail, it could be quite good. But after watching the careless way they run it, I have a strong feeling it will never live up to its potential.
So, next time I'm at Flora, maybe I'll be hungry enough for just one slice. Just in case they've figured out how to do it right.