While it is easy to find pizza in Rio de Janeiro, finding good pizza presents more of a challenge. All too often, pizza in Rio is a greasy, stodgy and tasteless affair, and the fact that it is common practice to slather the slices in ketchup and/or mayonnaise and mustard speaks volumes about the lack of flavor.
Fans of ‘real’ pizza needn’t despair, however, as away from the beachfront tourist traps and the corner snack bars it is possible to find pizza that even the Italians themselves wouldn’t turn their noses up at. And while holidaymakers with cash to splash will find themselves with plenty of smart restaurants to choose from (the Capricciosa chain is a good case in point) pizza lovers on a budget in Rio can take heart from the fact that one of the city’s best loved pizzerias is an altogether more informal, and affordable, affair.
Tucked away on an unassuming back street leading from the residential neighborhood of Gloria up to the scenic streets of Santa Teresa, Pizzeria do Chico looks like little more than a corner bar offering food that is more functional than flavorful.
It is, in fact, far more than that, and the Italian-run pizzeria has picked up a string of awards in the local press. Many people consider it to offer the best pizza in the city, and certainly the price:quality ratio is outstanding.
The restaurant’s owner (the eponymous Chico) takes great pride in his Italian heritage, and certainly the pizzas here wouldn’t be out of place in a traditional Italian trattoria. With recipes that hail from the north of Italy, the emphasis is on fresh, seasonal ingredients. In a marked contrast with the heavy slabs that are so widely found at pizza joints and snack bars in Rio, the bases here are wonderfully light, thin and crisp, with an authentic stone-baked flavor.
There are three sizes available – P (pequeno – small), M (media – medium) and G (grande – large) and each of these is significantly larger than is standard elsewhere in the city. A small pizza serves as a light meal for two, while the large is positively huge.
With a respectable number of pizza varieties to choose from, a good bet for groups of friends is to share a couple of medium or large pizzas, which would come to around R$15-20 per head based on four or five people sharing.
The traditional options such as the Marguerita are perfectly prepared, while those looking for something a little more adventurous can sample the flavors of Chico’s beloved Northern Italy in versions such as the Genovese (Genoese), which combines fresh tomato with mozzarella, tuna, pumpkin, onion and a touch of ginger.
While diners here are more likely to wash their pizza down with a well-chilled beer than with a fine wine, wine drinkers who aren’t too snobby about what’s in their glass will find there is a perfectly palatable (and very affordable) red here that makes a good partner to Chico’s tempting pizzas.
While Pizzeria do Chico lies some way off the tourist track, its location just a few minutes’ walk from the Gloria metro station means it isn’t difficult to reach. You can find it at Rua Santa Cristina 21-A, Gloria, and it’s open from Monday to Saturday, 4pm-10pm.
Photo courtesy of dive-angel (Creative Commons/Flickr)