Gazzo Pizza Proves You Don’t Have To Be Italian To Make Incredible Pizza
By Martin Stokes . January 2, 2019
Gazzo Pizza is a neon darkroom operatic exploration into sourdough pizza.
Gazzo is serious about two things: sourdough and locally-sourced produce. While they’re not exactly the first artisanal pizza restaurant in the Kiez, they join the ranks of Zola, Masaniello and Monella in the crusade of producing pizza with the same zeal in which wineries produce fine vintages.
The difference is that, unlike the others, who all pray at the altar of the Neapolitan, flash-fired pizza, Gazzo opts for a slightly different take.
Namely, their concept revolves around sourdough. Sourdough pizzas, sourdough bread. They make it fresh on the property and keep their bubbling yeast starter on proud display in a small unit next to the bar. It’s living, breathing, rent-paying Hobrechtstraße yeast. An ever-changing Neuköllner culture (much like the neighbourhood itself), meaning that no two batches of dough are the same. The result is varying flavour profiles in the pizza bases, nuanced and tingling with acidity.
Instead of baking the dough for a swift 90 seconds as per the Neapolitan method, the guys at Gazzo fire their oven at a lower temperature, resulting in pizzas that have a crispier crust but retain a moist and soft centre. It’s a combination of Roman and Neapolitan methods synergized to create a new and exciting beast altogether, a sort of neo-Neapolitan without being overly Italian.
A Neo-Neapolitan combination of technique and flavours – Gazzo is a collection of experiments gone right.
The restaurant is the two-pronged tour de force headed by Robert and Mikael. Robert, who is as wonderful as he is charming, represents the face of Gazzo – his tasteful eye (and his own private art) have created the tasteful, somewhat eclectic interior that is part Italian holiday and part kitsch ’60s diner. He is also responsible for the drinks and wine, both of which are sourced from sustainable producers according to his proclivities and sensitive taste buds.
It was Robert who also conceptualized the name of the restaurant. After much humming and hawing, he recalled a night in a Berghain darkroom in which a bunch of Italian men were shouting, “Cazzo! Cazzo!” exuberantly. Cazzo, in Italian, without beating around anyone’s bush, means cock. Cazzo progressed into Gazzo, and just like the walls of darkroom in which it was conceived, the name stuck.
Mikael, on the other hand, is a classically trained chef and handles everything behind the scenes. When he’s not in the kitchen tossing sourdough frisbees around, he’s assessing the establishment with a critical eye, looking for somewhere that needs improvement, or out sourcing the latest and greatest organic ingredients.
The two make for an endearing duo and, under their guidance, Gazzo continues to fill seats and bellies every night of the week.
Authentic Italian? Who cares. It’s their produce that is the real deal.
Gazzo is somewhat of a middle-finger to a food industry that Robert and Mikael consider greedy and detrimental. They express their fuck yous by sourcing as many of their ingredients locally, sustainability and organically as possible.
Everything that can be is small batch; the mozzarella and burrata used on their pizza come from Italian water buffalos raised in Brandenburg, the tomatoes are bought from the local Kiez, and the spicy sausage comes from artisan butchers. It stems from the classic Italian school of thought regarding food: use good things around you, simply.
To put these philosophies to the test, we were treated to a sampling of their menu. It only made sense to start with a loaf sourdough, considering it’s Gazzo’s flagship ingredient and utmost pride rolled and kneaded into one. Served warm and steaming, the smells of the freshly baked bread were enough to get everyone at the table salivating long before anyone dug in. Eaten with hausgemacht burrata cheese and a mixed tomato salad, the bread simply melts into subtle flavours of acidity and tanginess.
The burrata, an Italian classic, wears a solid skin akin to mozzarella but with a creamy centre of stracciatella as rich as it soft. Even if you’re not a pizza fan, the burrata is alone worth the journey to Gazzo. And while many burratas are made from cow’s milk, the guys at Gazzo source theirs from a herd of water buffalo in Brandenburg. In fact, Robert and Mikael are so committed to the cause of locally-sourced food that they’ve adopted one themselves. We’re told proudly that her name is Gustavina, and she’s one of the contributors to the high-quality buffalo milk which gets churned into so many of their dishes.
Crisp and soft-centred, the pizzas are worth travelling for.
Already feeling full after the starters, we then moved on to the pizzas – all of which are ordered off of old ’80s VHS movie covers (another subtle touch that adds to Gazzo’s overall aesthetic). The first was a mix of spicy salami, smoked Padrón peppers and melted mozzarella with a healthy dollop of burrata in the middle. It pulled apart beautifully, with long cheesy tendrils trailing down from every slice. Just as promised, the crust was crispy and the centre was soft. Thin-crust aficionados might turn their noses up at this, but I enjoyed the doughiness. The flavour of the sourdough but subtle but detectable, and worked well with every topping.
The second pizza came liberally topped with fennel, salami, mozzarella, organic goats curd and rucola on a tomato base. The third: a classic anchovy number with fresh chilli and capers. The flavours of the anchovy were strong and slightly overpowering, but that’s to be expected when cooking with cured fish and so doesn’t really detract from the dish – after all, you know what you’re in for.
With a vegetarian in our mix, we were also treated to a vegan pizza – a sourdough white base topped with roasted Portobello mushrooms, spinach, pine nuts, garlic and herbs. While I sometimes (usually regretfully) believe that veganism should keep its green fingers out of certain dishes, I was surprised at how flavoursome this particular pizza was. Even without the cheese, it was still delicious.
With Mikael covering the pizzas, Robert created a drinks menu that’s very spritz-heavy (that’s not a complaint). Perfectly balanced, they range from the classic Aperol to Mediterranean herbs, to Bitter Peach and Appennini. The bitterness of the drinks complemented the creaminess of the mozzarella and burrata; a perfect storm of Italian flavours which were almost enough to put us into a food stupor… I use the word almost, because it was the dessert that did it.
Ice cream richer than a property mogul running for president.
I’ll say upfront that I’m not a dessert fan. I avoid cakes and generally don’t eat ice cream unless it’s burning-hot outside and I’m walking past Hokey Pokey. But Gazzo somehow managed to break down my biases with their buffalo milk ice cream.
Simply put: it’s fantastic. Instead of the traditional cow’s milk ice cream that settles uncomfortably at the bottom of the stomach and impairs digestion, Mikael’s take is to use the same buffalo milk used for their cheeses and whip it into something infinitely creamier; a hundred times more flavoursome, and richer than a property mogul running for president. Like everything else in Gazzo, the ice cream is made daily on the premises and comes topped with either olive oil (sounds odd, tastes wonderful), salt and shortbread, or poached pear and shortbread.
I took a bite of both thinking that I would simply have to taste them for the sake of this article; a few minutes later I slumped back in my chair, full, defeated and undeniably happy; the goblets of ice cream now empty before us.
While artisan pizza is nothing new in Berlin, Mikael and Robert manage to take it to a different, refreshing, if not entirely new level. The pizzas are to die for, the cocktails will have you longing for the Mediterranean and the desserts are definitely something you would email your mother about. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Reuterkiez then I’d consider making this your new go-to pizza hangout – it’s affordable, welcoming and cosy on top of the fantastic food. If you’re not, buy a U-Bahn ticket or risk getting controlled; because Gazzo is worth the fine.
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