Saturday, 6 August 2011

Favourite restaurants #3: Pizza Cresci, Cannes

My sister used to buy the Daily Sketch, a now long-forgotten English newspaper, on her way to work every day. This was a long time ago - she married and moved out when I was 11. When she came home I would seize it and read the cartoon on the back page, Peanuts. Among the many incomprehensible cultural references, to a child growing up in England in the 1950s, was the occasional mention of "pizza pie". Pizza was pretty much unknown in England back then - probably there were Italian restaurants in London that served it, but those were hardly the kind of places we could afford to go to. It would be a good few years before I'd find out what it meant.

Now, you can probably get pizza in every country in the world. Really it's amazing how quickly it has spread. Of course it was already commonplace in the US back then, which was why Charlie Brown took it for granted. I've eaten pizza in just about every country I've visited, there are times when you just need a break from the local food no matter how much you like it - as in Japan - and certainly if you don't, as in Korea.

Pizza's introduction to England was courtesy of Pizza Express, a London chain (originally) that made them before your very eyes, and made a very tasty pizza too. They even published a pizza cookbook, which worked surprisingly well considering that a domestic oven doesn't get anywhere near hot enough. Though my own introduction to pizza was at a local restaurant when I worked in Reading, Mama Mia - long since closed I'm afraid.

When we lived in France, we would make the pilgrimage every summer right across the south to the beach town of Hossegor - site of another favourite restaurant. It was a long drive - 8 or 9 hours, especially before the autoroute was finished and you had to dice with death on the three-lane stretch between Salon and Arles. By the time we got home we were exhausted and hungry. We would pile out of the car, leaving it packed to the gills with bags and often cases of wine that we'd stopped off for at Buzet, and cram into Isabelle's tiny Abarth to drive down to Cannes to eat.

Tradition had it that we always went to the same place, Pizza Cresci on the waterfront. Just the location is the stuff of dreams - right across the street from the harbour, packed with millionaires' yachts. Oh, and right next to the Municipal Police, hence easily recognised by the illegally-parked police cars, as you can see in the picture at the top. You might expect that in such a touristy location, the food would be mediocre. You couldn't be more wrong!

Pizza Cresci has, quite simply, the very best pizza I've ever tasted, anywhere in the world. I've been to the original pizza restaurant in Naples, and to some of the most famous ones in the US. They've all been good, but none has been quite as good as Cresci. My special favourite is their Pepperoni. They use a thin crust, crisp around the edges but deliciously soaked in melted cheese and oil in the centre. With a sprinkling of hot oil... just sinfully moist and delicious. Isabelle's favourite is something quite unique, an aubergine (eggplant) pizza, very thin slices of aubergine, a little cheese, and the same yummy thin base.

Of course we went there at other times too - if we were tired and just couldn't be bothered with eating at home, it was so easy. And it's huge (by French standards anyway), so even when it's packed at the height of the tourist season, you never have to wait long. But since moving to California, it's a wee bit less convenient and we hadn't been there for a long time. Then this spring, we visited Sorrento and Naples, then spent the weekend in Nice. Fresh from Napoli, the self-appointed capital of pizza, we decided to have lunch there. It was as wonderful as in our memories! The pepperoni pizza was delicious, the aubergine too (so I'm told), and as always with view of the Cannes waterfront.

Forget all the famous many-starred restaurants in Cannes, head straight for Cresci. It's the place to eat!

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