Pizza in Italy reminds me a bit of that time when my friend, who had never had a wedge salad, ordered one but without the tomatoes or the blue cheese. She was speechless with disbelief when a wedge of iceberg was served to her on a plate. In Italy, a plain pizza, a “pizza bianca,” or “white pizza” is indeed a piece of pizza bread that looks like focaccia… no cheese, no sauce, no toppings (other than salt and oil), and often served cold.
During the pandemic, I’ve been keeping pizza in my freezer. After a few weeks of eating all the frozen pizza I’d sequestered in my freezer, I thought that I’d had enough pizza for a while… until I saw a potato and mozzarella slice at Alice (AH-lee-chay).
Now that I live in Italy, some of my friends ask me questions about Italian food expecting that perhaps I have become an expert. Not yet. The most recent question I received was about focaccia and pizza. What is the difference? It turns out that pizza is the type of dough, not so much the type of topping or how it’s served. Even a brioche can be a pizza. At Easter, a large brioche shaped like a panettone is called a “pizza formaggio” and it is a cheese pizza. See photo below.
I actually quite like the bread that is called pizza because it’s made from the pizza dough.
This reminded me of the last time I was in Italy when I had a bread called, “schiacciata,” which is was a flat, oil-rich, salty, pillowy dimpled flat bread sold in squares. I recall those dimples of green olive oil and the slick of grease on my chin. It is a Tuscan version of what is known as focaccia in the North. It is a little thinner, and perhaps a little closer to a pizza.
In Rome, the pizza is sold by weight and in rectangles. It doesn’t have to have red sauce or cheese. It doesn’t even have to be warm! Often the pizza is topped with cold salad or sauteed greens. An extremely popular topping is cold mortadella. Pizza is also available as a breakfast item, even mortadella with mayonnaise.
There is a style called “pinsa” which is slightly oval and it is not a pizza, it’s a pinsa. Got it? The pinsa is a type of flat bread that is baked first and then topped with fresh ingredients.
So basically a pizza is a type of bread, sometimes cooked with the toppings in the oven and sometimes dressed afterwards. Otherwise, the rest seems to be free to one’s creativity. Except for pineapple. No pineapple on the pizza here in Italy. I really like pineapple on pizza and I don’t even mind corn. A really good pizza here is blue cheese and walnuts. Nuts! Right? Many of the Italian immigrants to the United States were from Naples so the American pizza evolved from the Neapolitan pizza.
When I went on a food tour with a local guide, she confirmed that pizza is about the type of bread. Not what is on it, what temperature it is, or how it’s served.
This lesson pizza will have to be ongoing as I discover more types of pizza.
Want to try Roman foods? Wish you had a Roman friend who lights up a shop when she walks in? Wish you were Stanley Tucci? Then try a food tour with Sophie Minchilli, on her tour called “Rome with Sophie”. It is a pleasant walk with some history but mainly food tastings. You may try suppli, cheese, wine, cookies, pizza, prosciutto, gelato, coffee, and visit old markets and neighborhoods of Rome. We chose the “three neighborhoods tour” of Campo di Fiori, Jewish ghetto, and Trastevere. Sophie has known some of the shop owners all her life and it shows. You get a real “insider’s” tour. It is clear that they love her. You might risk feeling the same way.
The tour cost 140 Euro but she gave us a COVID discount. The max group size is six people and the tour takes about three hours. She does tours starting late morning and also late afternoon. Ours started at 11 a.m., as she accommodated our schedule, but it’s better to start earlier to avoid the crowds. The food tour was a good intro. It’s more an array, rather than an in-depth lesson in food, but good if you are new to Rome or just visiting. As you fill up on food, Sophie will adapt the tour. Some can’t hack it to the prosciutto or gelato stop. The day we went, we forewent the gelato for a sit down with an alcohol-free aperitif. Along the way, Sophie will get you snacks, answer questions, and explain food in Rome.
In the Jewish ghetto, we learned about the brass markers embedded in the cobblestones to mark where once there lived a Jewish family, killed during WWII. But, we also sat outside at the only table at a 400-year-old shop, eating cheese, feeling the ambience of ghetto life.
Sophie is half American/Italian and much beloved in her neighborhoods. If you want a tour in English and with someone young, she’s the perfect person. She and her mom, Elizabeth Minchilli, run longer tours of Puglia, and Sophie is expanding to one-day outings in Lazio (the region that includes Rome). Elizabeth Minchilli is an author (and friend of Elizabeth Gilbert, for those who are fans of Eat, Pray, Love) and well connected to the other tour guides in Rome. Sophie offers three tours in Rome and accepts payment via PayPal and cash. With her mother, Sophie also does food tours in other parts of Italy so you can spend a whole week with them and really feel Italian!
My favorite part of the tour was the ghetto. I also enjoyed the spontaneous non-alcoholic aperitif discovery. I don’t know what it’s called but it was orange and bitter, yet refreshing, and slightly addictive.
Suppli are the Roman version of “arancini” — basically a croquette from cooked rice or pasta. The name, suppli, derives from the telephone cord because when you pull the two halves apart, the mozzarella should string out like a phone cord.
In the south in Naples, arancini are “mini” oranges and they are usually made of rice. In Rome, the suppli are often made with pasta. Suppli are smaller than arancini. They are greasy. As you can see in the photo, the suppli is not that big (it cost 2 euro because it was amatriciana — the normal one with mozzarella is 1.5 euro). The one that I got was a amatriciana, a pasta sauce made with guanciale (pork cheek bacon), cheese from Amatrice, and tomato sauce. The pasta in mine was tube pasta — like a straw.
Many appetizers in Rome involve something deep fried. These fried pasta or rice balls are very popular either as an appetizer or a snack. For some reason, always eaten with pizza. I don’t know why since I don’t associate pizzerias with deep fryers.
I know that it is the general convention that dishes, food, is best tasted at the source. I think that does some disservice to the diaspora and fusion food that has evolved over the millennia. That said, here is a list of food that I often crave. Actually, for many of the dishes, I prefer in their newer form. But, then again… some I prefer at the source.
Ceviche — I like the classic old fashioned version. The Peruvians love fusion. They are a fusion and so is their food. So now one can find “warm ceviche” and ceviche not made with fish.
Danish hotdog — I prefer them in Denmark. The actual hotdog is special, the ketchup is different, the dog is served with crunchy fried onions… New York pizza — also, one of those things. Some say that the New York pizza is like a Neopolitan pizza from Naples, Italy. We shall see… Hamburger — Some of the best I’ve had are in the United States. American beef and lack of gristle in the mix. Banh mi — I’ve had good ones outside of Vietnam. Pho — Also, good in the certain parts of the United States. Very bland in other places. Korean BBQ — If one sticks to the pork belly, then it’s fairly easy to get good Korean barbecue in many countries. I think that many people think that bulgogi should be made with a high grade of beef and grilled at the table. Traditionally, bulgogi was created to use bad cuts of meat that required marinating. Usually the slices are so thin that grilling at the table dries them out. Some places use good cuts of steak and then one can dip them in sesame seed oil and salt. This is a delicious way to eat barbecue. Chicken wings — Oddly, some of the best barbecue wings I’ve had were in a pizzeria in New Mexico. Dim sum — can be good in many places outside China.
Laksa — so far the best I’ve had, and even some of the mediocre, was in Singapore and Malaysia. What can I say?
Most of all, the food of other lands transports you to them.
Culture shock seems like an outdated phrase from the 1980s, but then again, I find that the 1980s are still around… for example, when I was traveling in Kenya in 2012, the radio stations all played Michael Jackson’s songs as if they had just come out. Now in 2020 in Italy, the down jacket is back from the 1980s. Not really back, as it never left as it is still the fashion to dress like Hans Solo in certain other Latin countries.
In a way, the down jackets remind me of the “pizza bianca” or “white pizza” that is a common food here in Rome. It’s a bit shocking that the pizza is square, sold by weight, and can still be pizza — even if it has no sauce or cheese. Yes, it really can still be pizza. In a way, in its purest form if one reads the etymology of the word, pizza.
More shockers another time. I need to go get a pizza and put some cheese and ham on it, and call it a sandwich.
During this pandemic, time has slowed down, and yet, it seems to take a long time to get anything done. In Italy, as recently as two hundred years ago, time was also different, not due to a pandemic, but because time was told differently. The day started not at midnight, but at sunset. As I wait for my time to move to Italy, I am sharing another segment of the book I wrote about what I wish I knew about food in Italy. This is from the chapter called, “Saucy,” ostensibly about spaghetti sauce… and yet, the chapter covers so much more, including the three musketeers, and Elvis.
One of the gripes about Italian food outside of Italy, is that there is no such dish called, “Spaghetti with Meatballs.” Despite the role that this dish plays in the American iconography of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. The famous scene with the spaghetti and meatballs shows that by 1955, when the film was released, this dish was already iconic to American Italian cuisine. (A fun note: The model for Tramp was actually a female dog.) Also, there is no dish called, “Spaghetti Bolognese.” The sauce served with spaghetti is called a “ragu” in Italian. Ragu is a sauce. Bolognese sauce comes from the city of Bologna, in the north of Italy. Thicker sauces like Bolognese usually accompany thicker types of pasta like lasagna pasta. Meatballs, called polpetta in Italian, are never served with pasta.
Ragu comes from the French word, “ragout” which means a stew. The French ragout comes from the verb “ragouter” which means “to revive the taste.” In the nineteenth century, Alexandre Dumas wrote in his culinary dictionary that ragout made French cuisine “shine.” This is the same Alexandre Dumas who wrote The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. The Count of Monte Cristo is actually based almost entirely on the life of his grandfather, Marquis Alexandre Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie who fathered General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie with his black slave, Marie-Cessette Dumas. To read about this, read The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. It is a swashbuckling tale if ever there was one.
Alexandre Dumas fils (son), the son of Alexandre Dumas pere (father), was a playwright and wrote the tragic Camille, possibly one of the most tragic romances I’ve watched on stage. This play became the basis for Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata. La traviata means “fallen woman” in Italian. Both Alexandre Dumas, father and son, were born out of wedlock and illegitimacy is a common issue throughout the son’s writings.
Giuseppe Verdi’s birth was registered as “born yesterday” on October 11, 1813, in the church register. At that time, the day began at sunset, not at midnight, so Verdi celebrated his birthday on October 9. He was born in a village in municipality of Busseto, in the province of Parma, in the region of Emilia-Romagna, in northern Italy. Supposedly VERDI was used as an acronym for Vittorio Emanuele, Re D’Italia, which means Victor Emmanuel, king of Italy who was the first king of Italy, to signify the Italian unification movement. Verdi got involved in politics and was a staunch supporter of Italian unification. It took almost fifty years for Italy to become unified.
Verdi also wrote Aida, possibly the most baroque over-the-top-operas of all time. Verdi wrote Aida upon request by Ismail the Magnificent, Viceroy of Egypt and Sudan, to celebrate opening of the Khedivial (Royal) Opera House in Cairo, not to celebrate the Suez Canal as some sources will state. Aida had its world premiere in 1871. Aida is the love story of an enslaved Ethiopian princess and an Egyptian military commander. The story is set in the ancient capital of Egypt, Memphis. The glory days of Memphis were 5,000 years ago. The name Memphis is the Ancient Greek version of the Ancient Egyptian name meaning “enduring and beautiful.” The ruins of ancient Memphis are just south of the pyramid of Giza in Cairo.
The trumpets blaring and drums thumping in the famous choral march in Aida is one of the most recognizable tunes in our collective hearing. Ordinary people cannot belt out the chorus from Aida, but most think they can do a fair version of “O Sole Mio.” “O Sole Mio” was written in 1898 with lyrics by Giovanni Capurro and music by Eduardo di Capua and Alfredo Mazzucchi. “O Sole Mio” means “my sunshine” in the Neapolitan dialect which uses “O” instead of “Il” from the standard Italian as the preposition. This catchy tune was so popular and well-known that, at the 1920 Olympics, when the orchestra had not received the music for the Italian national anthem, they played “O Sole Mio” instead. That shows hows catchy a tune it is.
In 1958, a young enlisted man from Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis Presley, heard this song when he was stationed in Europe. After he returned to the United States, he requested that a version be written especially for him. This became his best-selling single, “It’s Now or Never,” one of my favorite songs. I always thought this song was about “carpe diem” as in the Latin term meaning “seize the day,” but it’s about seize the guy, before he falls out of love with you. The original phrase carpe diem by the Roman poet Horace in 23 BCE, was “carpe diem quam minimum credula postero,” which translates to “pluck the day, trusting as little as possible in the next one.” Basically, to live today to the fullest. Which Elvis certainly did. Of the song versions, I even like the disco version by Al Martino, an Italian-American who played a singer in “The Godfather.” “O Sole Mio” is sung in the canzone napoletana tradition. No, not calzone. That’s a pizza pocket.
The Neapolitan style of singing was taken abroad at the end of the nineteenth century by singers like Enrico Caruso, the famous opera singer. He was from Naples, and when he need a song for encores at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, he would sing songs from his hometown.
There are many Neapolitan languages, “napulitano” in Neapolitan, which originated in the Kingdom of Naples. Most of these languages, dialects, cover the southern half of the Italian peninsula, with around five million speakers. Like standard Italian, it is a Romance language, from the Vulgar Latin adverb romanice, “in Roman.” Vulgar meant everyday, vernacular, language, not foul language. There were three forms of Latin. The Romance languages arose in Europe between the third and eighth centuries.
For language nerds who don’t speak Latin, look up Romance languages on Wikipedia to see side by side comparisons of the same sentence in the various forms of Romance languages. For the nerds, did you know that Dr. Seuss invented the word nerd?
One of the things I find most useful in my kitchen are scissors. I’m not alone in this. In Rome, there is a type of pizza that is cut with scissors. In Korean food, scissors are used to cut the meat after it’s been grilled. In the photo, the mini scissors are used to cut open condiment packs (photo taken in Argentina).
Then, there’s the fork. Have you ever wondered why some forks have that slightly wider tine on one side? The answer is that the one tine is wider depending on if the fork is for a right handed or left handed person. If both the outer tines are wider than the inner tines, then the fork is for everyone, both righties and lefties. There are over fifty different types of forks, but that is the subject of another book. I have plans to write a book about forks and kitchen tools. A friend begged me to call it, Fork U.
While forks had been used since ancient Egypt for ceremonial purposes, the personal dining fork was first used in Constantinople in 400 CE (This particular fork is in a private collection in Washington, DC). The fork fashion spread to the middle east and the courts would use small two-pronged gold forks instead of their fingers. In the eleventh century, one such gold fork was part of the dowry of a Byzantine princess sent to marry a Venetian doge, a chief magistrate, Domenico Selvo. When a bishop saw her eating using this fork, she was admonished and told that she was insulting God by not using her fingers. The fork disappeared from the dining table for three hundred years!
By the 1400s forks had returned to the dinner table in Italy. The fork probably gained traction in Italy due to the popularity of eating pasta, which is much easier with a fork. By 1400 CE, it was common in Italy to present a diner with his own spoon and fork.
Famously, the fork was introduced to the French court by the queen, an Italian princess, Catherine de’ Medici. Caterina de’ Medici was the daughter of Lorenzo de’ Medici, ruler of Florence. She took silver forks with her to France in 1533 as part of her dowry. The French did not take to the fork immediately.
The fork did not gain popularity in the rest of Europe until much later. British travelers in the seventeenth century would deride the fork as an effeminate Italian custom. It was not until 1633, when Charles I, King of England declared the fork “decent.” The original dining forks had two prongs. The two prongs were not enough to eat peas and other round foods, so over the next several centuries, the fork gained two more prongs. The word “fork” comes from Latin “furca.” The fork reached North America during the revolutionary war, most likely via Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson, both who had enjoyed the good life in France.
******* Updated February 2020******** My idea of a good pizza is chewy Italian style pizza. Apparently, what I like is called an artisanal pizza. Having now eaten lots of pizza for a few months, I would say that there are four types of pizza in Lima. Andean: thin crust; Lima-style: cracker thin crust: artisanal as in hand stretched, artsy, and often with a moist center; and American as in from the USA in the style of Pizza Hut or school cafeterias with a bready high crust.
My favorites are:
Troppo’s pizza dough is the best in town — it is salty, crunchy, chewy, and made by a prize winning Italian chef.
Spizza, recently moved to Miraflores: a chewy Italian style crust and the oven is all wood burning. Some of their toppings are not good but select carefully. They also deliver through food delivery apps.
Punto Italiano, in La Molina: touted as a non-fancy place, I’d say it has a sort of rustic feel but it’s not a hole-in-the-wall, and the waiter speaks English. All wood burning oven as well.
Mercado 28: has a good pizza place. Few options but good.
La Caleta: cracker thin but good toppings.
Pan Sal Aire, Almirante Miguel Grau 320, Barranco: all wood burning oven but pizza crust is very wet and they use CANNED mushrooms which I think should be illegal when fresh ones are available.
La Pizza de la Chola: The oven looks right, the place is “hip” looking, but, but, the wood is for show, and most of the time, Chola (the owner, also owns El Pan de la Chola and Chola Dasso), fires up the gas in the oven when he bakes the pizzas. Good ingredients and super-chi chi such as Stilton Cheese and Caramelized Walnuts (I think). There are only four flavors.
Antica: Don’t go for the cocktails (I say this because some folks do go there and think that they will also be able to get a good cocktail…), but they make a solid pizza and have the closest thing to a pepperoni a la the U.S. pizza that I’ve found here. They also make a nice oily spaghetti with oil and chili (when having carbs, go for carb with carb!).
Fornaria 850, in Barranco: they look legit, have the oven, but their toppings are not top. But, I’ll say that when I went, they gave me a free arugala and proscuitto pizza. That was good. The other toppings are not.
Pizza Al Volo, a mobile wood burning oven pizza cart, 984 714 955; email@example.com: the owner, Brian, speaks fluent English, and he will bring his wood burning oven to your garden party. It’s thin pizza but he can make thicker ones if you want him to. See photo above.
Morelia, Miraflores: very kid friendly. Good salads, and the pizza is actually a large oblong flat bread which they cut in half for the “personal size” pizza!
La Linterna: an old fave with the Limenos. Also good carb on carb pasta options.
Veggie Pizza: a chain. Each of the locations has a different feel. The pizzas look artsy like sushi or dominoes. I took mine home and added meat. The story of this chain is cute because it’s four or three brothers who wanted to improve the health of their other brother.
Then there are other places that also serve pizza: Donatella, Danica, Rafael (yes, THAT Rafael) who all make Lima style pizza. Not exceptional.
Mama Rosa: this is high foccacia (but not as tasty) style pizza.
Lima has a Pizza Street. For Limenos of a certain age, they recall wandering down this street (off of Parque Kennedy) after a night out. I did not go there for my great pizza hunt.
***Updated February 19, 2020 to update Spizza’s new address**** So it’s Sunday night and you want to go out for dinner… Here are some of the places that I found. The restaurants are listed by how early you can eat dinner so that if you feel like eating linner/dinner at 5 pm, you can. Many of these restaurants are located in hotels or in Laromar Mall but I’ve noted that if that is the case. More power to you going out to eat on a school night!
Siete Sopas, corner of Angamos and Via Expresa, as well as Av. Arequipa 2394, Lince (Open 24 hours; seven days a week): This is a soup restaurant from the chain La Lucha Sangucheria. They have three soups each day. They always have “criolla” and “diet” (chicken soup) and then the day’s soup. It’s advertised on the wall outside so you can see the soup of the day from outside (or just have it memorized like some of my friends… “today’s Tuesday, so not MY soup day.”).
La Vista Restaurant in the JW Marriott Hotel, Malecón de la Reserva 615, Miraflores (Sun: 6AM–11PM)
Franklin, Av. Alvarez Calderón 198, San Isidro (6:30 a.m. — midnight, 365 days a year): American food. Named after Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Paprika Restaurante Lima in the Costa del Sol Hotel, Av. Gral. Salaverry 3060 (Sun: 6AM—11PM)
Social Restaurant & Bar in the Hilton Hotel, Av. la Paz 1099, Miraflores (Sun: 6:30AM–1AM)
La Tiendecita Blanca (Swiss Peruvian), Av Jose Larco 111, Miraflores (Sun: 7AM–12AM)
Tanta in Larcomar Mall, Circuito de Playas 3773, Miraflores (Sun: 8AM–10PM)
Mangos Restaurante in Larcomar Mall, Malecón de la Reserva 610 (Sun: 8AM–12AM)
La Lucha Sanguchería Criolla in Larcomar Mall (casual sándwich shop) and at various locations including Diagonal 139, Miraflores (Sun: 8AM–12AM)
Restaurante Vivaldi, Av. Camino Real 415, San Isidro (Sun: 8AM—10PM)
Sarcletti Dos De Mayo, Av. Dos de Mayo 1297, San Isidro, (Sun: 8:30AM—11PM)
La Vaca Loca in Larcomar Mall, C.C 18,, Malecón de la Reserva 610 (Sun: 11AM–12AM)
Papacho’s Miraflores (burgers), also in Larcomar Mall and this location: Av. la Paz 1045, Miraflores (Sun: 11AM-10PM)
La Rosa Náutica, Espigón Miraflores, Lima 18, Circuito de Playas (Sun: 12PM–12AM)
Delfino Mar, Jorge Chávez 509, Miraflores (Sun: 12PM-10PM)
Bao? (café with Asian sandwiches), 15074, José Domingo Choquehuanca 411 (Sun: 12PM–11PM)
Restaurante Alfresco, Av 28 de Julio 331 (Sun: 12PM–11PM)
KO Asian Kitchen in Larcomar Mall, Local 207, Malecón de la Reserva 610 (Sun: 12PM–12AM)
Bon Beef, Av. Pardo y Aliaga 596, San Isidro (Sun: 12PM—11PM)
Antica Pizza, Av. Dos de Mayo 732, San Isidro (Sun: 12PM—12AM)
Baco & Vaca, Av. Dos de Mayo 798, San Isidro (Sun: 12PM—12AM)
La Bodega de la Trattoria, Av. Dos de Mayo 715, San Isidro (Sun: 12:00PM—11PM)
Dánica, Av. Emilio Cavenecia 170, San Isidro (Sun: 12:30PM—10PM)
Restaurant Cuarto y Mitad, Av. Los Conquistadores 1266, San Isidro (Sun: 12:30PM—11PM)
SPizza, Luis Arias Schereiber 147, Miraflores (Sun: 12:30PM—10PM)
San Cerefino (Italian-Peruvian), Av Dos de Mayo 793, San Isidro (Sun:12:30PM—9:30PM)
Makoto Sushi Bar & Restaurante, Av. Dos de Mayo 585, San Isidro (Sun:12:30PM—11PM)
Fuji Japanese Food, Av. Paseo de la República 4084, Miraflores (12–3PM; 6–11PM)
La Trattoria di Mambrino in Larcomar Mall (Sun: 12PM-4PM; 6:20 PM–12AM)
Dhaasu, Comida Hindu: Avenida de la Republica de Panama 245.
Tragaluz in the Belmond Hotel, Los Carolinos 118, Miraflores (Sun: 7PM—11PM)
*** Updated January 29, 2020 *** I get a lot of questions about the “must eat” restaurants in Lima. Lima is a gastronomic tourist’s South American destination. So here is the list, from the fanciest (as in they are listed on the list of 50 best restaurants list) to some that I recommend, including breakfast places. Or you can go according to this list from Eater. All these places (even La Grimanesa–see photo above) are not hole-in-the-wall places, and some are downright white tablecloth fancy-pantsy. Michelin has not bestowed any stars here yet (Michelin only recently moved into Asia and North America — Michelin was a company just trying to get their customers to wear out their tires by going for drives…).
3: Maido (it’s Japanese-Peruvian), Ca. San Martín 399, Miraflores
4-7: La Mar, Av. La Mar 770, Miraflores, is a cevicheria which is part of Gaston Acurio’s empire, as are: Astrid y Gaston, Madam Tusan, Panchita, Tanta, Papachos, Los Bachiche (Italian-Peruvian and no longer part of his empire-sold to an Italian) and his newest place, La Bodega.
8: Cosme (best secret), Tudela Y Varela 160-162, San Isidro
9: Malabar, Av. Camino Real 101, San Isidro
10: El Mercado (also a Rafael Osterling restaurant), Hipólito Unanue 203, Miraflores: get the shrimp mini burger. It’s the most unusual dish here…
11: Osaka (Japanese), Av. Pardo y Aliaga 660, San Isidro: I wish they would turn up the lights but the single best bite of food that I had in 2016 — was here.
12: amaZ (Amazonian food), Av. La Paz 1079, Miraflores
13: El Seniorio de Sulco (on the malecon with a view of the ocean), Malecón Cisneros 1470, Miraflores
14: La Isolina, Av San Martin 101, (serves heritage Peruvian dishes): as it’s in Barranco, go during a summer lunch time. From the son of the lady who started La Red.
15: La Grimanesa (the only slightly hole-in-the-wall place), Ca. Ignacio Merino 466, Miraflores (practically across the street from La Mar). These are the award winning beef hearts on skewers. If you are going to do it, do it here.
16: Chez Wong (known for cooking in his home). Ca. Enrique León García 114, Santa Catalina
17: El Pan de la Chola (go for breakfast or for a light dinner), Av. La Mar 918, Miraflores. His newest location in Calle Miguel Dasso serves completely different breads etc. Jonathan Day, opened a pizzeria on Avenida La Mar in June 2018 just down the street from his flagship location.
32: El Rocoto: named after the famous large picante red chili from Arequipa.
33: Maria Almenara (for breakfast) or lunch, or dinner.
34: Blu (gelato), in Barranco
35: Paseo Colon, Av. Pardo y Aliaga 697. Like a TGIF or Friendly’s of Peruvian food.
36: Aji555, Av San Luis 2879, San Borja (delicious and Thai — really!!!), started in the ‘hood but moved to San Borja (and the prices reflect this).
37: Cafe Mozart (Italian and Euro flavor)
38: Spizza (in San Isidro). Great Italian style pizza. The best.
39: Taller Razeto, in La Punta.
40: La Mora (also for those who like a good northern European style meal or schnitzel) is a chain with reliable food and more cozy European cafe feel.
41: Las Vecinas, in Barranco, just down the small street by La Isolina. A cafe which is pet-friendly and eco-friendly. And they serve eggs for breakfast, and all the way till 2 pm!
42: Don Cucho’s, in Pachacamac. It’s way out by itself, an adventure to find, and sprawling. ****closed**** but, apparently the employees opened their own place somewhere nearby.
43: Tzu Chifa, Larcomar Mall, Miraflores. It’s elegant, got great views of the ocean, and the food it Chinese.
44: Jian Xing, in the old Chinatown or “Barrio Chino” downtown. A restaurant with the same name is on the new Chinatown (Aviacion). This place in downtown is not fancy like at Tzu but it’s economical.
45: Arirang, Calle Las Orquídeas 447, San Isidro. Authentic Korean barbecue.
46: Tambo Rural, Kilometer marker 52, Panamerican highway, south. Fresh bread out of the oven, stuffed with olives and cheese. Plus coffee so local that you might not understand the accent.
47: Juicy Lucy, Av Mariscal La Mar 1328, Miraflores . Go for the name alone. It’s burgers.
48: El Batan, Km. 198.5, Carretera Panamericana Sur, Chincha Alta. The MOST delicious lomo saltado to date. It’s located at a gas station in the middle of a town.
49. Amorelado, ice cream shop across from La Mar. Just because you will need something to do while you wait for your table at La Mar… try the lucuma. Then you can tick that off the list.
50. 500 Degrees, on Av. Camino Real. They have breakfast from 7-12. Then lunch. It’s a sunken patio. The juice is good, the salads are good.
51. La Ciccolina, Cusco. It’s upstairs from a courtyard. One of Gaston Acurio’s kingdom.
52. Fiesta Gourmet. The original place. Now they also have La Picanteria.
53. Amoramar, Garcia y Garcia 175, Barranco. For the love of seafood. The large restaurant is hidden behind a wall on one of the residential streets of “the other part” of Barranco as in the non-touristy part. The food and drinks are good. It’s a bit pricey, and some dishes are slightly off (too salty, etc.) but overall, it’s worth recommending.
55. Bao, José Domingo Choquehuanca 411, Miraflores (go west from La Mar and turn on Jose’s street). Not completely authentic but, who cares? It’s got hipster vibe. Also in Calle Manuel Bonilla off of Parque Kennedy.
56. Jeronimo, Av Mariscal La Mar 1209. Apparently one of the top places to eat. Shhh, don’t tell anyone. Completely international class food. The beef short rib was great if you are a meat lover. The grilled artichokes were a delightful surprise (scrapping the flesh off the leaves with fingers slick with garlic butter…) Also, the Poke (“poke-A”) bowl is passable for those who miss Poke.
57. La Cucharita. Also tapas, across from Jeronimo.
58. Morelia, Calle Atahualpa 196, Miraflores. Home made pasta, nice salads, and crispy flatbread pizza.
59. Mantra, Avenida Alfredo Benavides, 1761, Miraflores. Third best place to eat Indian. (Massala is not on the list.)
60. Puku Puku, Narciso de la Colina 297. Premier cafe with biodegradable straws.
61. La Linterna: The location in San Isidro is a family place where many of the local families walk over. The pizza is flat Peruvian style and the food is much like I imagine a Peruvian Italian grandma would serve.
62. Rasson. Calle Gral Mendiburu 1007, Miraflores. The name is the reverse of the last name of the siblings who opened this place. They also own La Panka. Rasson has lots of space. Comfy food. I liked their warm choclo with cheese, their grilled mushrooms, the anticucho of chicken breast was juicy (and healthy), the brownie dessert was excellent, and their “waters” with fruit infusions and lots of mint leaves are good as well. And they have SWEET POTATO FRIES!
63. Pan Sal Aire. Almirante Miguel Grau 320, Barranco. The best pizza so far. Service is slow but the atmosphere and the pizza is great. Too bad they use canned mushrooms. One of the few places with fancy breakfast. The interior is quite stylish and you can take your upper crust friends here. But, why, why, use canned mushrooms?
64. Homemade. Revett 259, Miraflores . They serve breakfast all day. It is homemade and organic. And yes, everything is homemade.
65. Franklin, Avenida Alvarez Calderon 198, in the Roosevelt Hotel. Very American food including pastrami.
66. La Milanesa Verdadera, several locations. It’s chicken fried steak. Also have salads and veggie options.
67. Antica, several locations. Good pizza, good pasta, good salad.
68. Quisso, Av. Paseo de la República 5250. Open 1-3 PM, 5-11 PM. The name is combo of “queso” and “guisso” which are are the words for cheese and stew. It’s a raclette restaurant (the first in Peru) but the idea is typical Peruvian fast food (burgers, hotdog and fries) with a raclette-melted ooze of cheese on top.
69. Dondoh, Av. Los Conquistadores 999, San Isidro. According to some, the best sushi place in town (Maido is in it’s own class).
70. Fuji, Av. Paseo de la República 4084, Miraflores. Apparently a favorite with the Japanese. It was good and they have a menu all in Japanese. Probably the most “authentic” Japanese food in Lima.
71. Punto Italiano, La Molina: Good Italian food.
72. Matria, Calle Gral Mendiburu 823, Miraflores: one of the few restaurant owned by a female chef.
73. Frida, across from Matria: Chef Moma of Jeronimo and Chinga Tu Taco’s Mexican restaurant, opened in August 2018, and a raging success.
74. Los Dos Hermanos Coreanos: on Aviacion. Korean and quite authentic.
75. Statera, Av Mariscal La Mar 463, Miraflores. Described as “like Central but bigger portions.”
76. La Pizza de la Chola: Chola of El Pan de La Chola’s third iteration. Italian style artisanal pizza but the oven uses gas after a bit of wood for show. As of May 2019, they now serve breakfast.
77. Las Tres Suecas, Av. Gral. Córdoba 1193, Miraflores: Three Swedish ladies have opened this little corner of Scandinavia, right around the corner from Avenida La Mar.
78. Dhaasu, Avenida Republica de Panama 245, Barranco. Delish food! Indian food has arrived in Lima! This place opened in early October 2018 and it’s blowing up Instagram. The line is going out the door. Luckily, the owner, Rish, and his Peruvian girlfriend, Camilla, both speak excellent English, and Spanish, so they can explain “what is hindu food?”
80. JianXing, Avenida Aviacion 2619, San Borja: across the street from Viet. This place serves authentic Chinese Chinese food, not Chifa. Not sure if this is true when not with a Chinese speaker…
81. Siete Sopas, Av. Arequipa 2394, Lince (Open 24 hours; seven days a week): This is a soup restaurant from the chain La Lucha Sangucheria. They have three soups each day. They always have “criolla” and “diet” (chicken soup) and then the day’s soup. It’s advertised on the wall outside so you can see the soup of the day from outside (or just have it memorized like some of my friends… “today’s Tuesday, so not MY soup day.”). As of May 2019, they have a second location in Surquillo.
82. Bangkok, José Bernardo Alcedo 460, Lince: This is the other Thai restaurant with Thai owners (a factoid that seems to be important to some). Some of the dishes were nothing but their papaya salad and green curry were good.
83. Carnal, Calle Elías Aguirre 698, Miraflores: steak. This is where the Juicy Lucy chain was born. Same owners.
84. Mérito, Jr, 28 De Julio 206, Barranco: Venezuelan chefs making delicious food. Biggest yuca fries…
85. El Mexicano, Calle Manuel Bonilla 248, Miraflores: Lots of sauces.
86. Sushi Pop, Calle Manuel Bonilla 112, Miraflores: Surprisingly good burger (Angus) and so on.
87. Guru Kebab & Curry, Av. Alfredo Benavides 4518, Surco: Second best Indian. Sit down restaurant.
88. Maria Panela, on La Mar. It’s Brazilian. It’s a cute little place. Not amazing but I did like some of the food. Did I mention it is cute? The owner is friendly.
89. Las Reyes, corner of Mendiburu. Third restaurant from La Red, La Isolina…
90. Boca y Vaca, on Dos de Mayo. It’s a steak house but has everything on the menu.
91. Kaikan, Ovalo Guitierrez, from the same people who brought you Noruto. Cute manga figures and the place is like a Fridays or Chillis of Nikkei food.
92. Enkai, from one of the former chefs at Maido. The hottest new place to go!
93. Monstruo, Nicolas de Pierola 113, Barranco: sandwiches and juice. Open since the 80s. Open from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m.
94. Bingsu, in downtown and Jesus Maria. Korean style shaved ice dessert. Yum.
95. Cafe A Bistro, Av. Augusto Pérez Araníbar 2193, San Isidro, brunch and other things. Located next to a gas station.
96. TipTop, Av. Arenales 2499, Lince: open since 1953. A drive-in diner where you can still get your food on a tray attached to your car. Delicious soft serve. Go to this location.
97. La Traviata, small Italian place with a really good caprese salad.
98. La Casa de la Nonna Lina, Av Brasil 3898,Magdalena: Some of the dishes were acceptable. Not bad. Spacious interior.
99. Siete, Jirón Domeyer 260, Barranco. It’s got a dark Madrid cosmopolitan feel. Food is good.
100. Troppo: Calle Los Libertadores 199, San Isidro. Best pizza dough in town. Excellent pistachio gelato, tiramisu, meatballs, pasta, salad, ricotta, and bread.
Obviously, I’m not including the places I’ve been where the food was awful or mediocre.
People like secrets. Maybe my favorite pizza place in Bogota isn’t actually a secret and I just hang out with too many new people… okay, on to the pizza review.
Julia’s (a chain): 12/13 (not a perfect score because their menu is limited… and not due to the annoying show-offy customers messing about in Spanglish while complaining about their doormen, maids, etc.): is considered the best Italian style pizza. It certainly is very authentic and my pizza had no cheese on it (or maybe I just didn’t look hard enough).
La Diva, Calle 93A-44: 13/13. Perfect score? Well, it’s a delightful little place. They don’t do pasta dishes (except when it’s a special, maybe Sunday night?). They have tables outside, upstairs, and in the main area. They have WIFI. The oven is fun to sit next to when it’s pouring outside. The place is decorated like the Sistine Chapel. The bathrooms are nice. The prices are reasonable. They have “brunch” on Sundays for 35,000 pesos (about $12) which is a set menu including coffee, mimosas, eggs, antipasti, pizza, and dessert. In various places, they state the hours for their brunch, but basically it’s from 12-3 on Sundays. The crew prepping and dressing all the dishes take great care and each dish looks like a masterpiece (but a larger portion than foam of foam). When I’ve arrived crusty from a bike ride, the staff have helped park my bike somewhere out of the thieves hands. I’ve been there alone and I’ve been there with other people. They are open every day (no guessing needed). On a Sunday, each of the four tables downstairs will be taken up by three generations of a local family. The only downside to this place is that the bathrooms are upstairs so if you’re sore from hiking… que pena. They do deliver so I guess I could just stay home.
Di Lucca, Carrera 13, #85-32:11/13. This is one of the IT places to be. The service is okay for a place overwhelmed with customers. The pizza is fine. They have lots of other dishes as well. I don’t really like that this place is always such a hectic place and so it can take a while to get one’s drinks or food. They also do delivery.
Archies (a chain): 11/13. I usually order from them. They also offer a large menu of items. I like that I can order it all online.
There are many other places (Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Dominos, etc.) as well including some food trucks selling pizza. I’m not much of a fan.
As I’ve mentioned before, Washington, DC, is filled with food adventures. Newly gentrified H Street in northeast DC is the newest “hot” area of international food eclecticism. It has quirky pubs, rice dives, and even the chain pizza restaurant has fancy pants “jamon iberico” on the menu. Plus, this being DC, you can even get pizza with sweet potato. And, of course, they bake the pizza in a wood burning oven.
At the Lebanese restaurant, they sell “ayran,” a salty yogurt drink, “mamoul,” a Fig Newton-like treat, plus the usual middle eastern treats like baklava. An extra experience we had was getting good tips on Iraqi music from the guy behind the counter (there’s an app for that!).