The great metropolis of Reykjavík has a financial district, not that far from downtown Reykjavík. This “district” is actually limited to just the one street of Borgartún, jam-packed with offices and parking lots.
In the middle of this concrete jungle, a new culinary oasis has appeared. Blackbox Pizza still has all the traits of a franchise restaurant. Grapevine met with owners Jón Gunnar Geirdal and Karl Viggó Vigfússon to have a taste and take a closer look.
Inspired by Blaze
The basic premise, when in Blackbox, is that the customers “make their own pie,” to quote Cosmo Kramer, the ‘Seinfeld’ hipster doofus who had an idea for a pizza place. His idea was for customers to put their fists in the dough, swing it in the air, add toppings, and put them in the oven. Geirdal says that the Blackbox crew did actually test such a scenario.
“I’m afraid it was just too messy,” says Karl. “But I was really inspired by US franchises like Blaze Pizza after I visited one of their restaurants. We wanted to do our own thing, so we did invest a lot of time and money in developing our menu, our concept and philosophy.”
Karl is a 12-year restaurant veteran who cut his teeth as the manager of the Icelandic culinary team for the annual Bocuse d’Or. He says that Blackbox is all about the quality of produce, and knowing when to keep things simple, so each ingredient gets a chance to shine.
“Money was not a factor when it comes to quality,” says Karl. “We did all of these blind tastings of Parma ham, various cheeses and the sauce. It took a while to get that perfect. But once we found the best quality toppings, those were the ones we chose to offer on our menu.”
Simply does it
There are 12 pizzas on the menu at Blackbox, although Geirdal insists that’s only to give people an idea of what’s on offer. “Our basic margherita is 1700 ISK,” he says. “Beyond that, every topping is 200 ISK. It doesn’t matter if it’s duck confit or if it’s simple onions. So the level of complexity is brought down to a zero.”
Customers who want to be adventurous have every chance to be. They use the topping station to add their favourite combos, basic or experimental. Once the pizza is in the oven, it’s ready in two minutes (really, only two minutes!).
Take away or chill
This short waiting time makes Blackbox seem a perfect option for takeaway pizza. Geirdal and Vigfússon agree, but they are also very pleased with the turnout of customers who stay for their meal—sometimes for hours.
“We are open from 11am to 11pm, every day,” they say. “Drinks are available at very reasonable prices—you could say happy hour prices all day long. This is the financial district and people have been longing for a place like this. Where you can go after work, have some drinks and good food, with the family, or with friends. We have the largest disco ball in Iceland, and the place really gets buzzing in the evenings. People are even dancing!”