It wasn’t long ago that eating pizza in Prague involved a knife, fork, and a generous helping of ketchup. Fortunately, that’s changing, largely thanks to the intervention of high-end pizza restaurants. An even clearer sign that the culinary landscape is shifting is the appearance of a new generation of pop-up pizza chefs, offering fresh, homemade pies in one-time catered events, or for surreptitious take-out.
Francesco Gallucci, better known as the purveyor of Le Pizza di Frankie, is leading the way, and it’s delizioso.
It might take a while to find one of Francesco’s pizzas, but that’s half the fun. With no brick-and-mortar restaurant, he makes pizzas for take-out two nights a week and often pops up at bars and restaurants around town (with help from Pizz’n’Prague), including the Italian bistro Don Totò in Anděl and the bar Vlkova 26 in Žižkov.
Le Pizza di Frankie’s Facebook page is basic, adorned mainly with photos of Francesco’s newest creations, like steaming margherita pizzas with gobs of mouth-watering mozzarella, and sprigs of fresh basil. One of his signature pizzas is a white variety, with mozzarella, olive oil, bacon, potatoes, and rosemary. One could say, without a hint of bombast, it is the best pizza in Prague.
At Don Totò, Francesco recently wowed a crowd of native Italians and local lovers of Mediterranean cuisine during a special Saturday night dinner. At Vlkova 26, he put smiles on the faces of slightly hungover hipsters on Sunday afternoon. Clearly his pizza crosses demographics. So how did Prague’s most popular pop-up pizza chef get started?
Ironically, perhaps, Francesco says he got into pizza making “for a joke,” but soon found himself “driven by passion for the best food in the world.” After moving to Prague several years ago, he was not only disappointed with local pizza, he found that most Praguers had a skewed idea of what pizza really is, let alone how to eat it.
“Pizza is unfortunately often considered as a junk food, but it was born as a food made from fresh ingredients,” he says. “Since in Prague unfortunately there are not places which satisfy my needs, I decided to learn to make it.”
Francesco has a mini pizza oven from Italy that he retrofitted himself. It cooks one pie at a time in about 90 seconds. It’s a sight to behold. But what really sets his pizza apart is that it’s Neapolitan, following traditional family recipes that make it “different from regular Italian pizza,” he says.
“There are several rules you have to follow for Neapolitan pizza. First there’s the technique of how the dough is made, then there’s the long rising time. Also there’s the different way the dough is stretched to give the right shape, with high and airy edges. The cooking time should never be more than 90 seconds, to keep the elasticity and softness that are specific to Neapolitan pizza.”
The result is dough that’s slightly crispy on the outside and chewy in the center, a pillowy delivery device for the delicious cheese and toppings Francesco uses. He imports home-made olive oil from his mother, along with other fresh ingredients he regularly receives in parcels from Italy. For mozzarella, Francesco recommends Mozzarellart (see For Foodies: Mozzarellart), which he says offers the freshest mozzarella in Prague. You can taste the difference in these wholesome toppings. This is pizza elevated to an art.
Clearly, fresh ingredients are important when making great pizza. What else does it take to single-handedly revolutionize Prague’s pizza scene? For Francesco, it’s a combination of enthusiasm and knowledge.
“You’ve got to understand how the dough will behave from the moment it starts to rise until it’s ready to be baked,” he says. “Only great pizza makers can guarantee a final result that’s almost always the same, so the customer will always find the same taste, and come back for that taste. If the variables are not taken into consideration, the pizza will be different every time.”
That’s the charm of pop-up pizzerias like Le Pizza di Frankie; this is not cookie-cutter Italian food. Even before you dig in, you can see these pizzas are unique. You feel like you’re discovering each one for the first time. So do yourself a favor: find this man and eat his pizza.
Le Pizza di Frankie
Taking orders Tuesday & Saturday, 7pm-10:15pm
See the Facebook page for upcoming pop-up events.
All photos courtesy of Le Pizza di Frankie’s Facebook page.