Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Best Pizza in Taipei

If there's one prole food I love with my whole heart, it's pizza. As you know if you read this blog with any regularity, I can be a bit exacting and maybe a little picky when it comes to quality food (though I don't consider myself to be a 'foodie' as such, or at least I don't have the other personality traits that being a foodie implies). I am just as picky about pizza, but like with coffee, it's not as though I'll turn down a bad slice - I'll just eat it without savoring it. I know when I'm eating something transcendent and when I'm eating whatever-whatever because it's a party and someone ordered it.

And, as you know, pizza in Taiwan can be a hit-or-miss deal. It's not that the pizza is uniformly bad (really, can it get worse than Sbarro anyway?), but it's not uniformly good. There are some gems buried in the morass...or "quagmare" (if you will permit me a John Stewart mocking Sarah Palinism) of cheese, corn and sugary sauce, but you have to look.

Here are some of my favorites - guaranteed to make the Taipei Times restaurant reviewers think I'm stalking them.

Zoca Pizza
Linjiang St. #149 (Linjiang St. right near where it hits Anhe Road)
臨江街149號 (臨江安和路口)

I decided to try this place after a mention and glowing praise from Michael Turton, to see if it really stacked up. It does!  The crust truly is a thing of beauty, good amount of cheese, tangy sauce that tastes homemade, really nice toppings.  Whole olives, large, softened sundried tomatoes, fat slices of spicy sausage that is actually spicy. My top choice for the best Taipei pizza has been Faust (below) for a long time. There is nothing more delicious on earth to me than Faust's thin crust, low oil bleu cheese pizza with giant spatterings of soft, pungent cheese. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Zoca beats Faust. I would say, however, that Zoca rivals it. Easily. I don't see why there can't be two #1s.

We're regulars at this tiny outdoor pizza joint near Gongguan that serves up interesting combinations of vegetarian pizza, barley tea and nonalcoholic beverages. I recommend their smoked cheese pizza with a touch of black pepper and cumin, or the Ginger Superman (slivered ginger cooked into the cheese, with egg). So yum! And so crowded - show up at an off time or be prepared to wait. Closes early.

On Renai Road just across from Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (easily walkable to both City Hall and Guangfu Road), this tiny joint serves two things: awesome thin-crust, low-oil pizza with high quality toppings, and beer. There are also soft drinks for kids. Nothing else - and I wouldn't have it any other way. They know what they do well, and they rock it.

Better known for stromboli, this place on Xinhai Road across from NTU (it's near that Starbucks that is always full of sleepy NTU students clacking away on laptops) serves up a real New Jersey slice. They even have the round glass shakers full of dried red chili and oregano (no second-rate parmesan, unfortunately) - made in China but culturally straight off the Turnpike. Go here for softer crust pizza, dripping cheese and real tomato-packed sauce. Don't go looking for a gourmet experience - this is the best kind of plebe food.

With several locations around Taipei, this place serves up the gourmet real deal on thin crusts with plenty of flavorful toppings, as well as other food, beer and excellent tiramisu. So good that they can cheat you and you may not check the bill in time to stop them (once in person and once to a friend, the location at Huashan overcharged us by a massive amount and we barely caught it in time - check your bill if you go). Save room for the tiramisu, but don't bother with the matcha dessert pizza. They sliver the toppings to give an even coating to the entire pizza, which really makes the flavors pop.

A solid Gongguan option if So Free is packed, but it didn't wow me enough to write a separate entry for it (I've written separately about many of the other places). The pizza is good, plenty of cheese, not too sweet, interesting toppings, no corn or mayonnaise. The crust is on the soft side, which is fine. Not too oily. It was good, but it wasn't "drop your pants good" (Faust, on the other hand, is drop your pants good). I felt a bit sick the next day but Brendan did not, so I am not sure it was the pizza's fault. Either way, it tasted fine going down and wasn't slathered in Thousand Island dressing, so it makes the list.

We had two pizzas - soft crust, with flavorful and fresh toppings - a plate of tasty sausage, some very good mussels, a salad and dessert here. Everything, especially the salmon carpaccio pizza and the mussels - was delicious. It's also owned by a friend's coworker's little brother. I strongly recommend it, but the seating space is tiny (really only four small tables that can turn into two large tables, some outdoor seating and some counter space) so call ahead for reservations. They also have Belgian beer. It's a fancier alternative in this neighborhood to Amore (above), and a pretty good choice to bring a date who isn't the candlelight-and-white-tablecloth type.

Got a hidden gem or favorite joint you'd like to add? Leave it in the comments!


Catherine Shu said...

I'm fond of Pizzeria Oggi in Tianmu (a couple blocks away from the Sogo):

Brudder_A said...

Thanks for the write up.

Read your blog and had a craving for pizza so I ventured down to Zoca.

Got down there a bit too early so I went down Linjiang St. night market is. Nice walk! Came back in about half an hour and the place was packed. Got an outside table and ordered but had to wait for the pizza because folks picking up their takeaways were way ahead of me.

Anyway I had pizza and is was delicious. Thin crust vegetarian with extra mushrooms! Just as good or even better than as I had in Cleveland, Lucerne or Melbourne.

The price was also quite reasonable with the 10% service charge.

I recommend Zoca and if you are planning to eat there at a late time, make sure you call for a reservation.

I'll be returning later next month and I'll be reporting on Faust.

Anonymous said...

My favorite is Pizza Maya in Tianmu. Near Shidong Market. Thin crust. Take out only. On the weekend you have to call ahead.