10 slices of Jerusalem

Which pizza reigns supreme in the capital city?

big apple 298.88 (photo credit: Sarah Levin)
big apple 298.88
(photo credit: Sarah Levin)
Jerusalem is not known for having its own distinctive style of pizza like Chicago, New York or Sicily. And yet, every city around the world that has a substantial Jewish population seems to have a kosher pizza parlor named Jerusalem Pizza. In the Holy City alone, there are six pizza establishments by that name. So what is Jerusalem pizza? In Israel's capital, you can find thin or thick-crust pizza, whole wheat dough and just about any topping you can think of. If you get a craving for pizza with pineapple, tuna, anchovies, halumi cheese or a hard-boiled egg, all you need to do is pick up a phone and it will soon arrive at your doorstep. While the most popular addition to a pizza in America is pepperoni, here in the Mediterranean, olives are tops among toppings. Jerusalemites love their pizza so much that they support more than a hundred pizza parlors - and the competition between them is often tough. A case in point is Rehov Emek Refaim, Jerusalem's restaurant row. Pizza Hut moved away from the street last year in part because it couldn't handle the competition from the family-owned Pizza Sababa across the street. The only Jerusalem branch of the Pizza Meter chain nearby closed last week and will soon be reopening in a smaller location in the city. The Pizza Sababa story proves that Jerusalemites like supporting their local mom and pop pizza parlors at the expense of the big chains. In Jerusalem visited 10 local pizza parlors and sampled their slices to find out which pizza wins the prize as Jerusalem's best. We found that Pizza Sababa was the best - and also the most sababa - cool in Arabic and Hebrew slang. The top tier also includes Big Apple, Pizza Meter and Pizza Hut. The second level comprises Mystic Pizza, May Pizza and Home Pizza. The least edible were Sbarro, Delicatess and Uri's Pizza. Pizza Sababa Address: 43 Emek Refaim Phone Number: 561-7773/4 Toppings: Pineapple, artichoke, broccoli, halumi cheese, hard-boiled egg Price: Slice NIS 10/pie 62 Overview: Pizza Sababa looks like a simple pizza parlor but they seem to have found a way to make their pizza addictive, with the ultimate combination of fresh mozzarella, a well-defined tomato sauce with delicious herbs and a crust with the right texture. Their sababa spices can be added to the pizza to make it even more flavorful. You will truly enjoy every bite. Big Apple Address: 13 Dorot Rishonim, 41 Jaffa Road, 1 Avizohar in Ramat Beit Hakerem Phone Number: 625-6252 Toppings: Many, including tuna and Bulgarian cheese Price: NIS 10/69 Overview: The first stop for many American students when they come to Israel, Big Apple Pizza has developed a reputation as one of Jerusalem's best. They boast better quality cheese than their competitors and this is noticeable in the taste. The sauce has a rich variety of herbs. But the crust is a bit hard to chew. Pizza Meter Address: Formerly at 54 Emek Refaim Phone Number: 1-700-505-040 Toppings: Some 20 toppings available, including salmon, spinach, zucchini, eggplant, fresh basil leaves and sun-dried tomatoes. Price: 1/8 meter (closest to a slice), NIS 22.90, 1⁄2 meter (closest to a regular pie) 58 Overview: In a class of its own, Pizza Meter is the best place for people who love trying new toppings. Their interesting combinations of toppings are as unique in Jerusalem as the rectangular shape and the by-the-meter way of ordering pizza. They also introduced pizza with cream sauce instead of tomato sauce. The main problem with Pizza Meter is the price. But for the kosher consumer, it's important to save one of the few kosher Pizza Meters in the country, so hopefully their new location will be successful. Pizza Hut Address: Jerusalem Mall Phone Number: 1-700-506-070 Toppings: 19 including pineapple, yam, hot pepper Price: NIS 9.90/65 first, 20 second Overview: If the goal of a pizza is to have the cheese, sauce and crust synchronize as if they truly belong together, Pizza Hut excels. The cheese straight out of the oven is luscious and gooey. It intermingles with a tangy Italian sauce and doughy thick crust. But it loses its freshness and becomes harder to digest when you get it delivered. Mystic Pizza Address: 61 Herzog Phone Number: 679-0888 Toppings: 13 including tuna and anchovies Price: NIS 9.50/59 Overview: Named after a 1988 Julia Roberts movie, its location on Herzog Street, not near other restaurants or entertainment facilities, would seem to make it unlikely to succeed, but Mystic Pizza is always full of people. The main reason seems to be the zesty sauce that invigorates the rest of the pizza, especially when eaten straight out of the oven. Deliveries come with a free 1.5 liter bottle of juice. May Pizza Address: 45 Hapalmach, behind Mashbir downtown Phone Number: 563-9450 Toppings: 9 including tuna and anchovies Price: NIS 10/62 Overview: Their downtown branch has whole wheat crust available if you order a pie in advance, but it is a shame that this is not available in their Old Katamon location where it would be quite popular. The crust is a bit hard and the cheese a bit oily, but it tastes good and the people who work there are nice. Home Pizza Address: Jerusalem Mall Phone Number: 679-5377/8 Toppings: A dozen varieties Price: NIS 10/50 Overview: It was better than we expected. Although they specialize in their stuffed pizza, which has a layer of crust on top, their regular thin pizza is decent if unremarkable. Ideal for people who like the taste of cheese to dominate their pizza. Sbarro Address: 35 Jaffa, Jerusalem Mall Phone Number: 623-2678 Toppings: 9, including Greek cheese Price: NIS 9.90 thin/10.90 thick/both 54.90 Overview: It's heartbreaking to give Sbarro a bad review, but the thick pizza tasted like an oily sufgania with skimpy cheese and overly sweet sauce on top. In the mall, it's wiser to go downstairs to Pizza Hut and downtown to walk a block to Big Apple. Delicatess Address: 58 Yirmiyahu Phone Number: 500-1811 Toppings: 6, including something called "mashrooms" Price: NIS 5/38 Overview: If you're looking for cheap pizza, this is the place to go. Unfortunately, it's cheap for a reason. The cheese is waxy and the sauce is spiceless tomato paste. This is where Jerusalem Post staffers next door go when they are in a hurry, short on cash and willing to eat anything. Uri's Address: 6 Malchei Yisrael Phone Number: 537-0119 Toppings: Nothing special Price: NIS 8 Overview: Uri's is always packed with people, serving a haredi clientele with separate lines for men and women. Our baby daughter munched happily on pizza crusts from the other places we tried. She took one bite of Uri's and promptly fell asleep. We concurred. This was the only slice we had trouble finishing - and not because we weren't hungry! The sauce looked like a neon orange food coloring glazed on a paltry crust. The cheese was paper-thin and just as tasty. Uri's gets rave reviews for hamentashen at Purim time, but steer clear the rest of the year.