Dec 8, 2020

Superlative Pizza: Picolin


Somebody has broken a cheese record -- and it's not me. It's Benoit Bruel, of Déliss’ Pizza in Lyon, who will soon enter the Guinness Book of World Records for having baked a cheese pizza. Cheese pizza?! That's an understatement. His creation sets the record for being the pizza with the greatest number of cheeses on it -- 254 certified varieties (and 3 more uncertified), probably one of which was mozzarella. This shatters the previous record, held by an Australian for his paltry 154 cheese pizza. Much like "Australian pizza", "French pizza" are not two words you hear together all that often, and probably because this is the sort of thing we ate that was called pizza in France.

Of course, you'd need about 3 disgusting pizzas like the new world-record holder with no cheeses repeating, and all French, in order to catch up to how many varieties of French cheese I've tasted so far, not that I'm feeling competitive or insecure or anything. Sadly, I don't get a Guinness World Record for my cheesy feat. But while I'm mocking French pizza, I do have to admit a little secret: One of the best pizzas in the entire world is located in Paris: two locations of Iovine's.

To be honest, the pizza pictured above is from one Italy, but it could have been from Iovine's; they look -- and taste -- exactly the same. We found Iovine's after our family had come back to France from a trip to Italy, where we went out of our way to eat at two of the most famous pizza spots in Naples (and, therefore, in the world): Pizzeria Trianon da Ciro dal 1923 and L'Antica Pizzeria de Michele Forcella.

The pizza stops were especially enjoyable because Italians love children, and our sweet girls are merchant magnets everywhere we go (not that I'm biased about them or anything). So not only do we get to eat the world-famous pizza, at Trianon, the girls are invited to come back to the creation station and make their own.

Once back in Paris, we were missing that style of pizza -- chewy crust, simple ingredients, absolutely bursting with flavor -- and we found Iovine's. It's one of our must-eat places every time we go back to Paris, oddly. When Gigi was recently touring some American friends around Paris (as near-adults) she brought them to Iovine's where they all enjoyed not just the pizza but a shared single glass of rosé, which you have to admit is more enjoyable as a teenager when you can order it yourself with no grown-ups around. Just a reminder: nobody actually knows what the drinking age is in France, so for all we know, the girls and the rosé might have been legal or close to it.

Interestingly, while we find the pizza in France to be, in general, pretty horrible, I have to admit that Picard's oven-baked margherita pizza is by far the best frozen pizza I've ever tried. 

It's obviously not as good as going to a great, fresh pizzeria, but if you're at home and want a frozen 'za, then it's fantastic and quite a bargain at just around 3.5 per pizza. It does, indeed, look very much like the photo above once baked, minus all the fresh greenery artfully strewn about. Honestly, it's even low-profile and takes up almost no space in the freezer. There's also the non-authentic but strangely pleasing chèvre-honey-walnut version that's our second favorite Picard pizza. When we're back in San Francisco, we actually miss both of them for convenience food. I don't understand why I can't find a frozen, oven-baked, Naples-style pizza in the US -- such a simple and successful pizza concept.

As a side note from our travels: it turns out pizza is a somewhat predictable thing with the odd surprise of shockingly good Naples-style pizza at one little spot in a remote town in Cambodia or in the ancient city of Bagan in Myanmar. In Malta, just off the Italian Coast, the pizza is like heaven. 

In Slovenia which is more Slavic/Germanic territory, the pizza is, predictably...interesting.

But no matter how bad Slovenian pizza turns out to be, I honestly don't think it would be worse than a pizza with 254 types of cheese on it, which has to taste revolting. And that's from a person who likes the occasional pizza and loves cheese.


Picolin is a goat cheese made in the Périgord, or Southwest France, by the Fromagerie Picandine. Made of pasteurized goats' milk, it's rather long-lasting and transportable -- especially in it's box -- and can therefore be found in grocery stores across France. I purchased this one as far away as Normandie, in Northwestern France.

Though it comes in a box like an oozy Camembert, it has a sturdy, slightly rubbery feel, much like the Wellington rainboots of your favorite storybook British nanny. On the scale of anything to anything, this cheese is firmly in the middle. It is an absolutely okay cheese, with mildly goaty overtones in a mildly salty, mildly flavorable paste, wrapped in a prettily-shaped white-bloom crust.


Though the entire 254 list of cheeses has yet to be published, it appears to be heavy on the French cheeses -- logical since part of Bruel's motivation was patriotic pride over the quality (and, evidently, quantity) of French cheeses. Some of the cheeses have already been publicly named and Picolin is one. Others that we know about so far include Rocamadour, Raclette, Comté, and ChaourceSo, if you try this world-record pizza, you too can eat some Picolin, though I guarantee that with 253 other cheeses (256 if you include the uncertified cheeses) competing for your attention, you will not be able to pick this one out of the mix.


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