THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED
Allegra gets pizza right, especially the crust.Pizza, now the international food par excellence, no longer has to be made by Italians to be good. One of the most amazing I ever ate was from a little place in Cadaqués, Spain. Its crust was very different from that of an Italian pizza (although that differs widely within Italy itself – the Romans, for example, like a thin, crispy crust, while the Neapolitans, who claim to have invented pizza, prefer a thicker, chewier one), but it earned a permanent spot in my overcrowded memory with its spectacularly fresh and delicious toppings. Another was in a small backstreet pizzeria in a village on the island of Ischia, a place where no tourist (but me, bravely alone) ever crossed the threshold because it had no terrace overlooking the sea. I was treated with great suspicion on my first visit but warmly welcomed on the second. Both of those pizzas involved fresh garlic, which tastes so much better the farther south you go. And then there was an Alice Waters pizza in Berkeley years ago, my first “gourmet” version, also unforgettable.
But enough reminiscing about memorable pizzas of the past. The point is that, theoretically, anyone can make good pizza, a dish that allows for unlimited creativity. All you need is perfect crust, however you define that, and well-made, superfresh ingredients. Not so easy – witness all the mediocre (though rarely truly bad) pizzas being served up around the world. That’s why it is always a pleasure when a good pizzeria opens in Paris.
I have raved in the past about Al Taglio, and Amici Miei and Maria Luisa (2, rue Marie et Louise, 75010 Paris) remain favorites, and now we have Allegra, a trendy spot in an until-now untrendy corner of the 10th arrondissement.
When I saw the bartender making a “dirty martini” (fancy cocktails are a sure sign of trendiness in a Paris restaurant; otherwise Allegra looked like many another pizza place), I couldn’t resist the temptation and ordered one. I was a bit disappointed; in addition to olive juice, he had added a drop of a smoky Scotch whisky, which overwhelmed the other flavors. My friend Mary had a nice glass of Prosecco, a better idea.
Some of the starters looked very tempting – butternut squash soup with smoked-cod cream, burrata with sautéed oyster mushrooms and persillade, culata de parme – but we were there for one thing only.
I had the “N’duja,” which was right up my alley, with ingredients I love: a spicy Calabrian
sausage called n’duja, buffalo-milk ricotta, tomato sauce and raw red onions. Mary had the Speck, with speck, tomato sauce, fior di latte (cow’s-milk mozzarella), mushrooms,
piquillo peppers and oregano.
The tomato sauce at Allegra is made with Sicilian tomatoes. Most impressively, the thin crust was crispy but light, flavorful and pleasingly dusted with cornmeal on the bottom. Squisita!
For dessert, we shared a Brittany-style tart topped with ganache of “grand cru” dark chocolate and gianduja (chocolate with hazelnuts). The topping was divine, jazzed up
with a salty sprinkling of black olive crumbs. We found the shortbread, however, to be too dry and salty. Next time I will try their homemade ice cream.
The friendly waiter explained that Allegra is owned by a French couple who also own Café Petite on Rue René Boulanger, also in the 10th arrondissement. Considering their evident concern for quality ingredients, it is worth checking out.
I still haven’t found a pizza in Paris as good as the three mentioned at the beginning of this article, but Allegra definitely goes on my list of favorite pizzerias in Paris.