By Tracy Roth-Rotsas
The authentic Italian pizza is quite a simple affair. It’s light on toppings on a baked base and without cheese smothering the toppings as most Western franchises would have us believe it should be. In Cyprus, it’s an extremely popular choice, however few restaurants can compete with Pizzeria Al Borgo, tucked away in the village of Pyrgos, when it comes to flavour, quality, value and authenticity!
Al Borgo is only a small place with few tables. In fact, the open kitchen where the owner energetically kneads the dough and has his prepared toppings is almost larger than the dining area. Freshly-made is the only way this restaurant serves anything and it exudes a wonderful homely atmosphere complete with mouth-watering aromas!
Al Borgo is completely unpretentious, even though most nights tables require a reservation!
The waitress brings us the menu which hosts the largest choice of pizzas I’ve ever seen – in Cyprus, at least! We order a glass of red house wine and some water and ask about the size of pizzas. There is big (28cms) and then there is bigger (33cm) though there is only one euro difference in the price. We decide to go for the former, and if still hungry can always order more later. It turns out to be the right choice!
Apart from the traditional pizzas such as Margherita, Siciliana, Hawaiian, and the Special, there are 37 different types of pizzas. Some pizza choices incorporate local ingredients on top of the obligatory tomato and mozzarella, such as the Greca ( + feta, and tomato slices), Mediterranea (+ sundried tomatoes, feta, olives, onion, spicy pepper, and oregano), Cipriota (+ halloumi, lounza, and olives) and Autunno (+ olives marinated in garlic, coriander and lemon, bacon and halloumi).
Other options focus on the those with a spicy palate: Diavolo (+ pepperoni, red hot chilli pepper), Delizia (+ garlic, parsley, red hot chilli pepper, parmigiano), Vesuviana (+ green pepper, and tabasco) and Sally’s Usual (+ bolognaise sauce, ham, onions, green hot chilli pepper). Equally, lovers of seafood, rich cheeses, smoked meats, and even garden vegetables, are well-catered to.
Of course, if none of those suit your taste, there is a comprehensive list of 30 ingredients from which to make your own!
I go for the Guiseppa (tomato, mozzarella + green peppers, pepperoni, parmigiano) and my friend, the Biancoverde (tomato, mozzarella + Parmigiano Regiano, ricotta, rocket).
It’s beyond cosy inside: we chat and listen to the soft background music of old-time greats among a low buzz of chatter. There is no wi-fi so it is refreshing to see people talking to each other instead of looking down at their phones!
About 15 minutes later, our pizzas arrive, piping hot, crispy, charred on the edges, with the base billowing out with random air-pockets. In traditional Italian style, the cheese is underneath the toppings, so you see everything you ordered right in front of you! My pizza is covered in pepperoni – which I love – and my friend’s is an example of pure indulgence with a garden-bed of rocket sitting atop her trio of baked cheeses!
There are two types of pizza-eaters: those without cutlery and those with. We are one of each and attack our dishes accordingly without struggle. The crust is moreish, begging us to wolf it down in seconds: we fight the urge. But it is the toppings that win us over. Rich, juicy flavours, slight crispness at the tips of the pepperoni slices, and a softness you can sink into, which I accredit to the generous layer of mozzarella on the base. It is, without a doubt, one of the most satisfying moments in my dining history!
I lament not ordering the baked mushrooms (Funghi Al Forno) or Lasagne (which get particularly glowing reviews online) but acknowledge I wouldn’t have been able to fit them in anyway.
From the small selection of homemade desserts is Tiramisu, my friend’s favourite. It’s a large portion with subtle flavours and deliciously light.
The bill is reasonably low, but it is cash only, so I am grateful there is an ATM just around the corner.
Admittedly, Pizzeria Al Borgo is a little hard to get to… but then again, don’t all the best places require a little bit of effort for the reward?
WHERE Pizzeria Al Borgo, Grigori Afxentiou 2, Pyrgos, Limassol
WHEN 5.30–10.30pm daily
CONTACT 96 609718, FB: Al Borgo Pizzeria (@alborgopyrgos)
HOW MUSHC appetisers €7-10; pizzas €7-14. Takeaway & delivery available also