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A slice of heaven: Five of the best pizzas in Brussels
Thanks to a healthy population of Italians and Belgo-Italians, the Brussels food scene has no shortage of ristorantes, trattorias and, of course, pizzerias serving steaming hot rounds of dough, tomato sauce and melted cheese. Or as we like to call it, when we can between mouthfuls, pizza.
But what makes the difference between a run-of-the-mill pizza and a great pizza? A wood-fired oven? The perfect dough? Fresh ingredients imported from a tiny Tuscan village? Sure, but also the setting – the best pizzas tend to come from places with noisy, cramped dining areas, mismatched tables and seemingly chaotic service.
Here are our picks for the five best pizza places Brussels has to offer. They’ve all been claimed as the best pizza in Brussels by one pleased diner or another, depending on how you like your slices. But what they all manage is a little slice of Italy right here.
Top spot goes to Bottega della Pizza. Unless you’re claustrophobic, there’s little not to like about this cosy joint down the street from the Saint-Gilles prison. The tiny restaurant is filled with red chequered tables crammed next to one another with the menu scrawled out on one wall. A metre away is the kitchen, filled with Italian products and hard-working pizzaioli. And if you are claustrophobic, you can always sit outside. Out front on the pavement, several large tables make it a great place for a warm evening. But the real draw is the pizza itself. Bottega breaks the rules for great pizza in that it doesn’t have a wood-fired oven, but it manages a perfect, doughy crust without it. The menu is filled with Italian ingredients you might not have heard of, but it’s hard to go wrong. Because the dough is so good, I like to keep it simple: the margherita with burrata is hard to top.
A few things to note, however. First, Bottega is far from a secret. The word is out about this place: for inside, you’ll want to make a reservation, while outside it’s first come, first served. Also, you pay for the pleasure. While it may look like a hole in the wall, an aperitif, antipasti and a pizza will likely set you back €30. 39 Avenue Ducpetiaux
Better known as Momo’s after the pizzaiolo extraordinaire working behind the counter. Many a pizza lover swears that this is the best pizza in town and certainly a close rival to Bottega. While even Italians claim his pies are on a par with those you’ll find in Italy, Momo, short for Mohammed, is not Italian. He learned his craft living in Naples for many years. What Momo serves up are Neapolitan-style pizzas with damp, saucy middles and loaded with fresh toppings, designed to be eaten with a knife and fork. If you’re several diners, consider ordering the mezzometro, a half-metre rectangular pizza that can be split with half having one flavour, half another, so you can enjoy two pizzas at once.
Bigger than Bottega, the inside of Momo’s is still cramped, but it has a nice terrace on Place de Bethléem. It also has a second location, Da Momo, on Chaussee de Waterloo. Catering to a crowd on the run, Da Momo specialises in selling slices to go. Perfect to take to eat in front of the nearby Saint Gilles town hall or the Forest park a little further down the road. 122 Chaussée de Forest & 268 Chaussée de Waterloo
Unless you live near the Meiser roundabout, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of this out-of-the-way joint, but Saco has some of the best pizzas in town. With huge mounds of buffalo mozzarella, copious handfuls of rocket, and every ingredient as fresh as a spring day in Campania, these thin-crusted works of art are worth the trip to Schaerbeek. Saco, however, can run on the pricier side of pizza: while a basic one is only €9, many of them are in the €16-€20 range. 154 Avenue Milcamps
The area around the European Commission near the Schuman metro station and Parc Cinquantenaire is full of restaurants, especially on Rue Stevin and Rue Franklin. They’re a bit hit-and-miss, but at La Brace, it’s always a hit. La Brace’s secret to success is its enormous wood-fired oven that churns out an impressive number of pizzas for the large dining room and a steady flow of take-out patrons. The pizzas have all the typical topping options, including ham, egg and capers, served on near-perfect thin crust. For dessert, try the other reason why people go there: their tiramisu. 1 Rue Franklin
For many, part of the charm of going for a pizza is the close quarters and boisterous, family feel. Mano a Mano offers a different vibe. Still lively and often full, with its prime location on the popular Saint-Boniface square in Ixelles, it’s less pizza joint, more restaurant, with a large, open terrace and careful, tasteful decor. Some will see this as a plus, others not. One way or another, they serve up a delicious pizza, along with other well-crafted Italian fare. 8 Rue Saint-Boniface