Eatalico: Pizza With a Pulse
A new pizzeria on Praterstraße has a mission: to prove that good taste can come in large packages, and that italian food can be sleek and modern, and still a feast: Buon appetito!
Now that the holiday season is behind us, Vienna has rung in the new year, and the first snowfalls have dusted the city with a wintery nimbus – which provides the perfect backdrop for gazing out the window and pondering life’s eternal questions…
Such as, Does this town really need another pizzeria?
The owners at Eatalico think so. They chose a prime location in the up-and-coming Praterstraße neighbourhood at the exit of a Nestroyplatz U-Bahn station. The nearby banks, the ATV studios, and the sparkling, new Sofitel Hotel provide the lunchtime crowds, while the easy U-Bahn access lures Vienna’s night owls.
It may be a big pizzeria, with bigger pizzas, ones that extend beyond the boundaries of your average plate. Yet, Eatalico doesn’t neglect taste; it just comes in a voluminous package. Behind the cocktail bar near the entrance, the seating area for 150 people wraps around a 2.5-ton oven, one of the largest made by the firm Wood Stone, the oven-of-choice of Austrian culinary guru Wolfgang Puck. A cluster of tables near the vast glowing fire pit provides front-row seating to the show of pizza twirlers.
When dining here, a few surprises may be in store, as was the case with the antipasto. Although tempted by carpaccio di manzo, I opted for a trio of bruschette with the advertised diced tomato, fresh basil, and garlic, only to discover an added slab of mozarella di bufala topped with a puddle of pesto. Zesty and crispy, it was a perfect prelude for the main course.
Eatalico’s no-frills menu o
ffers no less than 20 pizzas, eight pasta dishes, and a calzone just in case. A separate monthly menu offers additional ideas like a ravioli granchi di fiume, implying freshwater crabs. In actuality, the fresh and delicious river crayfish (gambero di fiume) crown a thick tomato cream sauce and ricotta filling. You’ll need to wash it all down with a glass of Chianti.
Your best bet is a pizza, and the seats near the oven can provide an engaging spectacle as the chefs compose yours, which on this particular evening was the gamberetti. The chef first dusts a 350-gram nugget of dough with flour, paws at the edge of it to flatten it out, then spreads it with his palm, and carefully twirls it in the air with his fist. Slowly swirling the sauce onto the thin pie, he then spreads tufts of cheese, then clumps of spinach. Then come the shrimps soaked in a basil-based marinade. Once its loaded onto the peel (the shovel-like pizza tool), he tugs at the dough to make it round, drops a dollop of pesto on it (another surprise!), and slides it into the pit, gingerly turning it with the peel after a few minutes.
Once on the plate, which is somewhere underneath the 43cm-wide pizza, you realize the steaming feast is easily big enough for two. As for the flavours, the wedding of shrimp and spinach has never been a particularly harmonious one, which I think is bound to end up in an ugly legal battle over custody of the cheese. Yet, I applaud Eatalico for offering a few unorthodox varieties of pizza, among usual suspects like the caprese and the calabrese.
Be sure to leave room for the excellent encore of torta della nonna, a refreshingly nare-flaring medley of almond, lemon, and rich vanilla with a wave of whipped cream on the side.
As every culinary expert knows, it’s not just size the matters; volume does too, hence the faint thump of electronic music overhead, which seems to get gradually louder as you near the midnight hour. By then, you may be enticed to have another glass, or migrate to cocktail bar, where you can debate that "eternal question" with this all-important new evidence.
With a belly full of shrimp, I decided there’s definitely room in this town for Eatalico.
Sun & holidays, noon-midnight
2., Praterstraße 31, (01) 212 62 73