How PZZA.CO Defied My Expectations

I’ll admit it. It wasn’t until last Friday that I finally warmed up to PZZA.CO. The sister restaurant to the wildly popular burger house BRGR.CO—which as of December 1 boasts two outlets in London—PZZA.CO opened its doors in April along the outer corridor of Beirut Souks.

Every morning for over a year, I watched the space develop as I exacted my path from the Biel parking lot to my downtown office. How could a restaurant specializing in and excelling superlatively at flipping burgers suddenly wish to try its hands at tossing pizza dough? I was incredulous.

One of the pizzaioli forms the dough into a disc

I waited for the reviews to start trickling in, and my doubts only grew. Three of the featured pizzas, dubbed Hussein Hadid signatures after the namesake chef who crafted them, were priced at 42,000LL. Now I can understand that pizzerias today are reinventing their pies into high-quality street food with a gourmet facelift. But $28 for one pizza? I couldn't stomach it.

Neapolitan pizzaiolo Gennaro Capuano vigilantly mans the wood-fired oven

Nevertheless I followed the PZZA.CO Instagram account and admired the picturesque pizzas and pastas posted by diners. Whenever I passed the restaurant on my midday stroll through the Souks, I watched with intrigue as guests seated elbow to elbow tucked into their sizable pizzas.

An inquisitive comment on their Instagram account, a call from the PZZA.CO marketing manager, and a small dose of persuasion later, I found myself inside the glass-paneled walls of the pizzeria nibbling on the fluffiest and most appetizing rosemary-infused focaccia I've ever tasted outside of Rome. 

Rosemary focaccia

Within minutes, six golden globes of lightly breaded mozzarella resting in a chunky pool of tomato basil sauce descended upon our table. Garnished with fresh sprigs of basil, these “bocconcini in carrozza” oozed with flavor and heat.

Bocconcini in carroza (lightly-breaded mozzarella balls)

Next up were tubes of perfectly al dente rigatoni bathed in a rich meaty sauce alla Bolognese. Two months ago on our honeymoon in Italy, we visited the world-renowned foodie mecca called, appropriately, Eataly. It was there that I had an awakening of the senses as my teeth gently stuck to the springy pasta shells we were lunching on. Then and there, I first appreciated what impeccable al dente (literally “to the teeth”) pasta could bestow upon the unsuspecting diner. PZZA.CO’s rigatoni dish transported me back to that ethereal meal at Eataly.

Rigatoni in bolognese sauce

The “verde” pizza was an attempt to round out the meal with vegetables, and on that front I wasn't disappointed. The crispy, paper-thin pie weighed down beneath half-steamed asparagus stalks, broccoli flowerets, spinach leaves and zucchini shavings all bound together with melted mozzarella. I would have preferred a bit of seasoning to elevate the general vegetable blandness. Fortunately, a dash of coarse sea salt and some ground black pepper did the trick with minimal calorie upset.

Pizza "verde" piled with fresh, mildly steamed greens

I’d heard such warm praise for PZZA.CO’s sweet pizza slathered in Lotus spread that I’d have been amiss not to try it. There’s something indescribably magical about cloyingly sweet biscuit paste tempered with wood-fired-oven-toasted pizza dough. Evocative of pita chips dipped in our cherished Levantine blend of molasses and tahini, the harmony of sweet and slightly savory, as well as the contrast of velvety and crispy, is perfection incarnate. One word of warning, however: a bite or two suffices!

Sweet pizza slathered with Nutella and Lotus spread

In retrospect, I’m glad I happened upon PZZA.CO after my trip to Italy because I was equipped to vouch for its authenticity of tastes, flavors and methods. Had I gone when the restaurant first debuted, I wouldn't have appreciated its genuinely Italian offerings. Now I’m enlightened, and I’m thrilled PZZA.CO is a stone’s throw away from my downtown perch.


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