Restaurant Review: Pizza Marzano

Laura Baranik dines at the new pizzeria atop Wenceslas Square

Expats.cz

Written by Expats.cz
Published on 21.02.2007 12:04 (updated on 21.02.2007)

Written by Laura Baranik
for Expats.cz

Pizza Marzano reminds me of a certain type of high school student. She´s nice to everybody, gets decent grades, and tends to follow the rules. She´s not bad-looking, but the boys aren´t clamoring to be her prom date. There´s nothing extraordinary about her, good or bad. In a word: average.

Unlike the plain-Jane high-schooler, though, Pizza Marzano does possess two quite remarkable characteristics – its location and its size. Situated on the second level of Václavské Náměstí´s Palác Blaník, the restaurant commands, via enormous panoramic windows, an unusual view over the upper half of the square, including the National Museum and statue of St. Václav. It´s also huge, seating a capacity of 235 people and featuring a narrow balcony overlooking the square and two large terraces that overhang Pasáž Blaník. With a setup like this, Pizza Marzano´s fundamental dullness is all the more disappointing. 

Then again, Pizza Marzano is a chain restaurant, a circumstance that doesn´t exactly forecast a high degree of originality. Founded in England in 1965 as Pizza Express, the cheap-but-chic eatery eventually grew to include more than 320 restaurants in various countries (the Pizza Marzano name applies only to locations outside the U.K.). The chain may have pioneered the mainstream popularity of Italian-style pizza in England, but these days most thin-crust pizza joints have a lot of competition, even in Prague.  

Expats.cz Rating
Atmosphere
Food
Service
Overall
From our plate
89 CZK Bruschetta di prosciutto e avocado
45 CZK Soup of the day
119 CZK Pizza funghi
145 CZK Spaghetti Bolognese
155 CZK Cannelloni
79 CZK Tiramisu
75 CZK Panna cotta frutti di bosco
35 CZK Bonaqua  
35 CZK Espresso Illy
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It´s not that the pizza is bad. Marzano makes a vibrant, basil-heavy tomato sauce that is almost as thick and concentrated as tomato paste. Real mozzarella is used, as are fresh mushrooms (neither of which, lamentably, is standard in local pizzerias). The crust is thin, but lacks the satisfying crispiness that comes from being baked in a brick oven, and the portion is rather small for the price. A pretty good pizza, but not outstanding.

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The pasta dishes tell a similar story. The spaghetti Bolognese is fairly well-executed, again mostly because of its bold tomato sauce. But the dish is presented with obvious carelessness: the spaghetti and its Bolognese are only half-mixed together, and the sauce is splattered across the edges of the plate. A miniature basil leaf garnish does little to brighten up the mess. The ricotta and spinach cannelloni don´t look too hot upon arrival, either. They taste all right, but the parmesan cheese and tomato and béchamel sauces all feel jumbled together, resulting in a sloppy, porridge-with-pasta hodgepodge.

Marzano´s food succeeds when it is simplest. A variation on bruschetta consists of little more than fluffy garlic bread topped with fresh prosciutto, avocado, a few cherry tomatoes, and a bit of parmesan – delicious. The soup of the day on one of my visits was celery root, and it, too, was simple and refined, the distinctive taste of celery lightly subdued by a bit of cream and fresh black pepper. 

Unfortunately, the menu´s highlights – even when served by Marzano´s efficient and courteous staff – can´t make up for the restaurant´s depressing interior. The high-backed black fake leather chairs and sad-looking potted plants give off an austere, office-like aura, while the fluorescent blue lights lined up above the windows make the room seem cold and vaguely reminiscent of the 1980s. A red wall adds some warmth, but the overall feeling of cheap minimalism remains. Woeful décor aside, it should be mentioned that Marzano has a small kiddie corner and children´s menu for those who´d like to bring along the little ones. They also offer birthday parties where kids can make and decorate their own pizzas.

Even for those without children, it may still be worth sitting at Pizza Marzano for the view. But don´t bother with the tiramisu, which is dry and flavorless and has nothing in common with the classic Italian dessert it claims to represent. The panna cotta with forest fruit is better, though not better than average.

The problem with Pizza Marzano may be that it doesn´t really want to be above average; like the well-mannered, straight-B student, it´s happy being ordinary. But as we all know from high school, ordinary is boring. And it doesn´t make the best pizza either.

Pizza Marzano
www.pizzamarzano.cz
Palác Blaník, Václavské Náměstí 802/56
Prague 1
Tel: 224 032 300
Hours: Mon – Sun 11:00 – 24:00