Ciao Pizza, Cape Town CBD
09:30 - 23:00 Mon to Sun 09:30 - 19:30 During Curfew
Price Range (p/p)
Cheap | Under R100,Medium | R100 - R300
In Naples, pizza is religion. The Neapolitan style of pizza-making is traditional and serious business. The biggest difference between this style of pizza and the normal pizza we eat everyday is that Neapolitan pizza has a very thin crust at the base with dough that puffs up around the sides giving it a very airy crust. The middle is thin and sags when it’s picked up. So if your pizza does not have the signature sag it won’t cut the mustard.
In Cape Town, Ciao Pizza is one of few spots that specialise in Neapolitan style pizza. They started as a home-based side business for Bashier Sonday. An IT professional who found his passion in food, cheese and pizza. Determined to make the best Neapolitan pizza around he did extensive research and experimentation before being happy with his recipe. He established Ciao Pizza and initially was doing the market scene for a few years. In June this year they opened a rustic brick and mortar store at the end of Long street in Cape Town.
I visited the store in July. It was my first foray eating out in the heart of the Covid-19 pandemic and I was not quite sure what to expect from the experience. The upside of Covid was that I did not have to battle to find parking on the notoriously fully parked Long street.
The store is a small, cosy affair near the end of the street. The inside of the building has been revamped into an eclectic mix of striking modern lighting and wooden beams above a stunning wooden counter and rustic touches of the original building in the way of an old exposed brick wall. Glass windows at the front of the store open horizontally upwards exposing the front counter seating to the warm Cape Town sun and a European feel of sidewalk seating.
I sanitized my hands at the foot operated sanitizing station as I walked in. No one took my temperature as they now do in level 2 and 3 or wrote down my contact details. Only one other table was occupied so I took a seat at the opposite side of the room. Far away enough to feel adequately socially distanced. Small wooden tables and modern metal chairs and stools made for quick meals rather than leisurely lunches occupied the front part of the store. Slightly more comfortable soft seats were available against the back wall for 3 more tables as well.
I ordered a cooling frozen mojito and the signature Margherita pizza from the chalkboards at the counter. The menu is minimal with 6 pizzas and 2 calzones. They have a good range of hot drinks and milkshakes, and while the milkshakes were tempting I left them for another time. The Margherita starts at R90 and goes up to R140 for the Brisket Macon pizza. The calzones are priced at R150 each. Shakes and mocktails are affordable averaging R35.
I watched the staff in their black masks as they got busy behind the counter. From my table I could not really see their work but I was fascinated by the huge pizza oven behind them. Unlike the clay pizza ovens I’ve seen before, this one is tiled in white mosaic style on the outside giving this traditional wood fired oven a distinctly modern spin.
My pizza arrived and looked just beautiful. The puffy crust with signature fire blisters offset the intense red tomato sauce topped with locally sourced fior de latte mozzarella and fresh basil. I couldn’t wait to tuck in. But as I lifted a slice my uninitiated pizza sense fell as the slice completely sagged and went soft in the middle. The flavour was on point but I could not help feeling the pizza was underdone in the middle. The waiter came over at a point to check on me and I mentioned that I found the pizza too soft in the middle. Not a few minutes later, a fresh pizza was brought to my table that was more well done. This was completely unexpected. I had not sent my pizza back or requested a new one. I was just giving them feedback. The waiter had fed back to the owner Bashier, who had then instructed them to make a new one for me.
I went over to thank him for the gesture, a definite customer service win. And he ended up giving me a quick lesson in the art of the Neapolitan pizza. The saggy centre is a signature of the pizza. And the way it’s meant to be eaten is that you lift the slice with your hands, fold it in the middle down its length, which makes it more sturdy and bite from the pointy end. It’s a rustic style and rejects the use of any knives and forks. I felt rather schooled to be honest. But definitely wiser in my pizza knowledge. If your style of pizza is the like of Pizza Time, a thick base with loaded toppings or the crisp lightness of Col’cacchio, then this may not be the one for you. But it’s such a cute little spot it’s worth the drive into town.