Nicklas once told me that Swedish pizza is ”The best pizza in the whole world”. Even better than pizza in Italy apparently. As he has never been to Italy, and he has the typical Swedish belief that everything is better in Sweden than anywhere else, then I’m not sure how trustworthy this information is. As a result of this steadfast belief of his I have been regularly subjected to comparisons of any pizza I have eaten with its favourable Swedish counterpart and naturally the former pizza is always found lacking.
As an avid pizza fan the thought of a pizza that is ‘even better than the ones in Italy’ brought me great excitement. When I was in Italy I ate pizza every single day as it was quite simply the best pizza I have ever eaten, and if Ruth reads this blog I’m sure she would confirm this fact – especially if she remembers the day when I was very hungry on the bus back to our camp site and craving pizza. It is not just Italian pizza I have a penchant for, I will dearly miss my regular BOGOF deal on Jaspas pizza in Vietnam. I therefore feel that I am suitably qualified to comment on Swedish pizza.
Swedish pizza is good. I like it. I don’t think that I would claim that it is better than Italian pizza, the Italians do it very well and will not be easily beaten. Swedish pizza is good but there were a few things that took me completely by surprise when I first entered a Swedish pizzeria.
Firstly, the price. In a country as expensive as Sweden, where shopping at the supermarket can be up to 40% more expensive than buying the same items in the UK, I was expecting a fairly hefty bill for a luxury such as a takeaway pizza. To my surprise in our local pizzeria, a standard pizza (they only come in 1 size which I would call a medium-large size) costs from 50 SEK to 75 SEK for the ‘Gourmet’ range. A family pizza will set you back 145 SEK. For those of you who are unable to convert SEK to Sterling (and this includes myself so I shall be using Google to help me here) this works out at £4.29 for the standard, £6.45 for the gourmet, and £12.46 for the family pizza. There are not going to be many occasions where I can say that something in Sweden is cheap but this is one of those very rare instances.
To put this more into context, a pizza from Jaspas in Vietnam cost me the equivalent of £6 – just under the price of the top range pizza in Sweden and more expensive than the usual range. And this was from one of the most expensive restaurants in the city. I haven’t ordered pizza from the UK in a while but a quick look on the internet shows me that a ‘special offer’ in Dominos is currently priced at £9.99 – much more expensive than the Swedish pizzas. Maybe Nicklas’ assertion that ‘Swedish pizza is the best pizza in the world’ stems from the fact that it’s the only restaurant food you can order in Sweden without having to remortgage your house or sell a body part. In a country this expensive cheap definitely tastes good!
After gazing in amazement at the marvellously cheap prices something else caught my eye. Over the course of 31 years one becomes very familiar with a standard pizzeria menu: Hawaiian, Pepperoni, Vegetarian, 3 cheese (4 if you’re lucky), Margherita. They are generally not very imaginative. Sometimes they dress them up with fancy names: Sloppy Guiseppe, Vesuvio, Napoli – usually a dodgy attempt to sound extra Italian to distract from the fact that it’s just a normal pepperoni pizza. The Swedes on the other hand are masters at the strange and unusual pizza topping. Alongside the usual offerings you can find Bolognese, Taco, Fajita or Doner Kebab pizzas. You can have pork filet, or steak, with bearnaise sauce, you can have pickled herring and eggs. The one that I find the most strange from our local pizzeria is number 31; the Lagerlöv. On this pizza you can have the tantalising combination of chicken, banana, curry and peanuts. Maybe I should not knock something before I’ve tried it but I really can’t believe that this pizza can taste good.
So the Swedes may not win any awards for the world’s best pizza but they may well for the world’s weirdest pizza. An impressive achievement, especially if you have ever seen Vietnam’s attempts at Western food combinations.