Published January 23, 2018
Pizzas and burgers get Icelanders’ hearts racing like nothing else. When Domino’s first opened its doors in Reykjavik in the fall of 1993, the lines were never-ending, but for a country so obsessed with pizza, a regional-style pizzeria touting the virtues of the humble hand-made pie has been glaringly absent.
Now, four young entrepreneurs—Sindri Snær Jensson, Jón Davíð Davíðsson, Brynjar Guðjónsson and Haukur Mar Gestsson—are looking to put that right. They took their love of pizza seriously enough to turn one corner of Grandi into Reykjavík’s Little Italy.
“It all started in New York,” says Haukur. “I went on a pizza tour in New York City in 2009. Back then I didn’t know anything about pizza, other than that I liked it. The tour started at Lombardi’s. We were told you judge a pizzeria by the Margherita, and how to close your eyes, feel the taste of the tomatoes, the dough, and the cheese. After that, it became an obsession; the idea that pizza could be more than just basic food.”
Flatey is a smart, modern pizzeria. It exudes a trendy, moody vibe in a grey-black-green palette. The polished copper pizza oven serves as a bright focus of the open kitchen, and there are snippets from the history of the Margherita everywhere. It’s the perfect spot for anything from a first date to a casual family outing.
Unlike take-out pizzas from large chains, pizzas vary by region, from the beloved thin crust and pepperoni New York slice, to Roman pizza al taglio, fried pizza (pizza fritte), and Sicilian pies. But probably the most celebrated is the Neapolitan pizza. Such is its popularity that they were recently included in the UNESCO listing of ‘intangible cultural heritage.’
Essentially a 10” pie, the Neapolitan pizza is hand stretched, with simple San Marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil, served unsliced. The most popular, and also the simplest is the Margherita, which marries simple ingredients by flavour and fire.
Nothing but pizza
“We decided to do this a year ago,” says Haukur. I have a hard time believing him as I slice into the Margarita. It’s simplicity itself, and the quality of the ingredients are obvious. “We travelled, we tried different Neapolitan pizzerias, ate nothing but pizzas,” he continues. “And then we went to Naples.”
All of Flatey’s pizzas bear that delectable leopard skin blistering, with the electric oven from Naples flash cooking each one in under a minute. The Diavola is a true-to-its-name spicy number, the heat tempered by the pickling and a wonderful touch of honey. The Tartufo is a pizza bianca, elevated by truffle oil and handmade Italian cheese. For vegans, there’s also a delicious Marinara.
With most Icelanders preferring NY style pizza, I’m curious how the response has been to this authentic Italian fare. “I was expecting that a lot of people wouldn’t like it,” says Haukur. “We knew it would be a slow start with people discovering it. It isn’t a crunchy pizza—it’s simpler.’’
But the place has been packed to the gills since its opening. Flatey has managed to, in a very short window, turn the pizza tide. The pricing is intentionally honest, the passion is palpable, and the pizzas? Possibly the best in town. And we don’t say that lightly.