Every once in a while, a new Italian restaurant opens in Beirut; it’s as if Lebanon is competing Italy in the number of pizzeria’s available.
Regardless of that, trying new restaurants is one of the things I like most; the new experience each one promises (whatever the outcome might be) is worth the try.
So it is shortly after Pizza & Co.  opened in Beirut Souks ( Downtown), that I decided it’s time to give it a try.
The place was a bit crowded, which is supposed to be a good sign.
As we stepped in we were greeted by a hospitable waiter who asked us to wait a second as he checked for a place for us to sit. Meanwhile, I took in the surrounding.

The place was so simple, yet as simple as it was, it was pretty elegant. Where the nearly eight chefs (all dressed in white) cooked was within sight of the customers, and the oven (or if you want to call it a fire place here) was so artistically designed; it was a pleasure to look at.
Small mosaic tiles, red in color, decorated the entrance to the oven; the small tiles went up towards the ceiling, getting lighter in color as they went up; such that if you looked from a distance it gave a nice view of a mix of orange, red, yellow, beige and brown; I loved the architecture of this, so warm and relaxing. A flame-like glass decorated oven!

Photo Credit: Blog Baladi

The walls were covered by classic black and white tiles, which reminded me of old kitchens;  despite that, I thought that the change from colorful to black and white was so sudden and should have been made in a smarter way.

Back to our waiter, who comes back and leads us to a small table, flanked by two other tables with a few centimeters between them. Literally a few centimeters, leaving no space for private conversations where your voice and the voices of the people surrounding you all mingle to create a musical atmosphere of letters and words floating in the air. (I even forgot if there was actual music played in the background)
“Are we supposed to be this close to one another?”
The waiter smiled as he replied: “Well, that’s the whole idea of our restaurant”.
Then I got it and I even enjoyed the idea more; Italy’s a place where family is a holy issue, especially among gangs. Mario Puzo in his bestseller classic, The Godfather, says that a man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man. That’s why everything was so crowded; to resemble a huge family gathering and probably to bond people more.
On your table sits a paper (written on it: Watch out, this is going to be messy) on top of which is a clean white plate with a napkin, on which “Sauce Remover” is scribbled.

Then comes the moment we are all waiting for: The Food.
The menu doesn't have that much of options; a limited types of pizzas, pastas and appetizers. Some were the usual ones you may find in any restaurant, others were house-specific.

I chose a weird pizza plate and another weird pasta one and the wait begins.
Meanwhile- and as all Italian restaurants- during the wait, you entertain yourself with freshly baked bread and delicious olive oil (comes in a spicy version or the classic one).
The serving was pretty fast; our plates arrived quickly and they were such a pleasure to look at.
The pizza had asparagus, broccoli and zucchini in it covered with melting cheese. The dough was so delicious and mildly chewy. One of the best I have tasted in the region.

All what you had to do is to sprinkle some olive oil on top and take your first bite.
With each bite, you experience a new flavor, for not all three ingredients are present at the same time in one bite. I fell in love with it, everything was so perfect in it (maybe because I love broccoli and asparagus I fell for it, the zucchini was a bit risky to include but it was delicious none-the-less).
One of the best mouth-watering vegetarian pizzas I ever tasted.

Then comes the Pasta.
The pasta wasn’t that ripe, as Italians claim that good pasta is a half cooked one. It was drenched in white creamy sauce, covered by thin stalks of asparagus and on top, a sprinkle of herb which I forgot its name. The pasta was so good; the combined taste of asparagus mixed with light cream and the herb was so unique and new.
However, I have tasted better pastas in another place; it misses something, can’t tell what it is, but it needed something intense to balance the mild taste that dominated the plate.

Regarding the prices (As we Lebanese say, now we are talking business), it isn’t that cheap; the price range is between 25000 L.L to 50000 L.L. depending on what you choose (our pizza was for 24000 and the pasta for 30000) which is slightly similar to the other new –born Villagio. The pizza, I believe, was worth every penny.

Lastly, I can’t judge a restaurant by just tasting two of its plates, but all what I can say is that Pizza & Co. was a nice experience; it’s worth a try to Italian food lovers and well worth a second visit to try out the rest of the menu.

Moustafa Moustafa