Just before Christmas, my food-blogger friend Tim and I started a blog series called Jozi Pizza Wars. Our goal is to try as many of Joburg’s independently owned pizza places (no big franchises) as possible and rate them on a variety of factors. Eventually we’ll compile our scores and come up with a list of the ten best pizzas in Jozi.
I reviewed five pizza places in Episode 1, but for Episode 2 I’ve managed only two reviews. A girl can only eat so much pizza, you know? But the two places I’m reviewing today are important, as I’ve eaten at both of them countless times and they are popular spots in their respective neighborhoods.
Café Picobella Trattoria
66 4th Avenue, Melville
Picobella was a must-review for me because I eat there so often; it’s within walking distance of my house. Picobella is great to have in the neighborhood because of its opening hours — breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 356 days a year (including Christmas!). Along with the Ant and YOLO, which I reviewed previously, Picobella has some of the most popular pizza (as well as pasta and other dishes) in Melville.
Picobella happens to be on Melville’s prettiest street corner, and has the prettiest aloe tree in town.
I always order the same thing at Picobella: The Veg Due pizza with baby tomatoes, melanzane (eggplant), pesto, halloumi, and rocket (arugula). I love this pizza and I have never found anything like it anywhere else.
But here’s the thing. The Veg Due is fantastic due to its unique combination of ingredients and flavors, but Picobella’s other pizzas don’t always measure up. On our most recent visit, my boyfriend ordered the Regina (ham and mushroom) and found it lacking in flavor. There wasn’t enough sauce or cheese and the ingredients weren’t well distributed. My Veg Due was fantastic as usual.
Picobella’s crust is pleasantly crispy and holds up well in the fridge. I also love the atmosphere at Picobella, especially outside on the deck.
Cold factor: 4.0
Overall rating: 15/20
The Veg Due, one of my favorite pizzas in Joburg. (And Ray, my favorite person in Joburg.)
286 Fox Street, Maboneng
Chalkboard, a pizza and craft beer joint in Maboneng, adjoins the popular Bioscope Theatre. I think Chalkboard was one of the first restaurants (“restaurant” is a bit of an overstatement — it’s more of a counter with a few picnic tables) to open in Maboneng, and if you’re a Maboneng regular then you’ve probably been to Chalkboard at least once.
I had been to Chalkboard many times — usually before or after an inner-city Instawalk — but had never paid close attention to the pizza until I went there this weekend specifically to review it for the blog.
A veggie pizza from Chalkboard.
Chalkboard’s pizza is great, in my opinion. The crust is thicker than average compared to most Joburg pizzas and the cheese is more plentiful, stretching away from the plate when you pick up a slice. My two friends and I shared two pizzas — one veggie and one with meat — and we all loved both of them. Be sure to ask for chiles on the side.
I can’t really comment on Chalkboard pizza’s “cold factor” because I’ve never walked away from Chalkboard with leftovers. (I’ll have to guess on that rating.) But I suppose this means that the pizza is good.
Chalkboard’s atmosphere isn’t much to speak of, especially right now because the chalkboards lining the walls are wiped clean. (Please bring back the colorful chalk graffiti, Chalkboard.) But the vibe outside is nice thanks to the great people-watching on Fox Street.
Cold factor: 4.0
Overall rating: 17/20
Cheesy pizza from Chalkboard.
That’s the end of Jozi Pizza Wars episode 2. Here’s a recap of my ratings so far:
1) The Ant Café: 17.5/20
2) Chalkboard: 17/20
3) Modo Mio: 17/20
4) YOLO: 16/20
5) Nonna Mia’s Kitchen: 16/20
6) Picobella: 15/20
7) Gema Trattoria: 13.5/20
Tim also also posted another Jozi Pizza Wars episode today so check out his blog too. Tim has a very different approach to evaluating pizzas than I do, so it should be interesting when we combine our scores in the end.
If you have any suggestions for pizza places to include in the Jozi Pizza Wars, please send them along.