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Stalking the Bulgarian pizza

September 25, 2007 | 10:42 am

Picklepizza1 I'm just back from a sort of pizza tour of the Balkans. In Croatia, right across the Adriatic from Italy, they pride themselves on making classic Italian pizzas. However, at a fashionable Zagreb pizza place called Mezzo & Mezzo, I found a distinctly Croatian pizza -- pepperoni topped with sour cream.

It wasn't exactly pepperoni pizza -- it used a Croatian sausage that's larger and a little less rich than pepperoni, and it included chopped onions and finely sliced bell peppers. Altogether it was a well-considered creation and I thought it was terrific, if you don't mind a pretty rich pizza. The only problem was that the sour cream makes the center of the pie kind of soggy, so you have to eat it with a knife and fork. But it turns out that's how the Zagrebines tend to eat pizza anyway.

In Bulgaria, a couple of places put cucumber pickles on pizzas, usually ones that included smoked chicken (which in Bulgaria is pink and hard to tell from ham). The restaurant behind the archeology museum in Sofia had a neat one, with all the ingredients diced very fine, and there was a rowdier one at a Sofia blues and jazz joint called Toucan -- it was my favorite because the pickles were cut in big chunks that stayed crisp. Toucan also had a pizza made with pickles and frankfurters (see photo). Both included lots of Bulgarian yellow cheese and a dose of marjoram.

All this raises a question: Is pizza really an open-faced sandwich on really, really thin bread, served hot? If so, why shouldn't the customer get some pickles with the old ham and cheese, or the cheese dog? Or sour cream whenever the mood strikes?

-- Charles Perry

Photo by Charles Perry