Review: Pepe Nero in Vinohrady
Pizza joint's third outing has the same confident pies
Posted: March 20, 2013
At the Vinohrady locale, the Neopolitan-style pizzas are the stars, while other dishes fail to shine.
If you're craving an authentic Neapolitan-style pizza in Prague, Pepe Nero is the place to go. Its first location, in the Jewish Quarter, has gathered a steady following over the years, and it opened a second, and less expensive, outlet in Břevnov in 2011. At both of those restaurants, the pizzas were by far the stars, but there was also a solid range of fresh pastas and meat dishes. Pepe Nero's latest addition, however, has the same quality pies but didn't seem to put as much effort into some of the other items on the menu, at least on two recent visits.
The Vinohrady restaurant takes over the vast space formerly occupied by Gusto for many years, a multiroom corner spot with large picture windows and tasteful dark-wood furnishings, most of which have remained the same through the transition to Pepe Nero. Unlike at the other two branches, there are no red-checked tablecloths, just cream-and-burgundy table linens that look classy with the wood-trimmed walls, hanging pots and pans and Italian accents. It has a classic midrange Italian-restaurant feel, comfortable for any occasion; indeed, the large restaurant was quite busy with a mix of groups of Italian tour groups and businessmen. It also has one of the largest children's areas in town, with colorful murals on the wall and lots of toys and games, as well as quite a few tables nearby for families to be based. Out back, awaiting the summer months, is a sprawling leafy garden - something neither of the other two Pepe Neros can boast.
Service is perfectly befitting such a growing brand, and on both visits we were in and out within an hour, after having two courses and yet not feeling rushed - even at lunchtime. The waiters were efficient to a tee, if not exactly personable.
The pizzas at Pepe Nero are consistently good, which is helpful if you've got a specific one in mind. For me, that was the Pizza Bufalina, my automatic go-to whenever I see it on a menu. And at the Vinohrady Pepe Nero, it's a bit cheaper than in Old Town: 215 Kč versus 250 Kč. The same goes for much of the dishes, although they are still mostly well above 300 Kč for meat and fish items, not including sides, for example.
Vinohradská 83, Prague 2-Vinohrady Tel. 222 231 972
Open Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat.-Sun. noon-11 p.m.
Bruschetta 85 Kč
Tuna tartare 295 Kč
Mussels and clams in Prosecco 140 Kč
Pizza Bufalina 215 Kč
Pizza Marinara 155 Kč
Lasagna Bolognese 185 Kč
Rabbit alla cacciatora with rosemary potatoes 280 Kč
0.75 L Basilicata Pipoli IGT white wine 315 Kč
Pepe Nero's list of pizzas is sizable, but the Bufalina is its prized pie. The circles of bufala mozzarella are heavenly, and the components are all in perfect balance: the sweet, tangy tomato sauce; the bubbly, chewy crust dusted with flour and a few char marks; the ample sprig of fresh basil. The sauce managed to not overwhelm the crust, oozing just the right amount without turning watery, and each slice holding up its layers without a landslide.
For fans of the pungent anchovy-and-caper combo, the pizza marinara was very good. Cheeseless, it combined the same sweet sauce with the dusky, salty little fish, which had been mashed slightly for better coverage, as were the capers, which helped distribute their potency across the pie. The flavors became a tad overwhelming once into the second half, however, and a cheese option could have been welcome to help diffuse the increasing acidity.
As per tradition, these are not large pizzas but are just the right amount to leave satisfied, especially if combined with a starter. The best of those sampled proved to be the bowl of mussels and clams, which came in a whopping portion of what appeared to be about 500 grams. It would easily serve as an entrée with a side, or would be ideal for sharing, and there were some truly gargantuan mussels in the mix, ones where the orange flesh filled out all the curves of the shell. They were tossed with the small clams - which added a nice variety of fresh flavor - in a broth of Prosecco, butter, parsley and mild chilis. For 140 Kč, it felt like a great deal.
Another starter, the tuna tartare, felt like less of a deal at 295 Kč, but was zesty and quite tasty. The firm tuna was mixed together with closely diced onions, capers, olives and cherry tomatoes and formed into a tower, and covered with rucola. It went well with Pepe Nero's fresh home-baked white bread, which was dense, chewy and crusty.
One of the meat dishes sampled, the rabbit alla cacciatora, was serviceable but didn't seem to actually have that much meat on it, despite the presence of a big hunk of carcass. The meat that was there was pleasant, stewed in a rich sauce of tomatoes, olives and fresh rosemary, with a few roast potatoes on the side. Overall, though, it left little impression.
The worst, however, was the lasagna Bolognese. In a much-disappointing turn, it was sickeningly sweet with too much Bechamel, at least for this reviewer's taste, to the point where it became inedible. There was very little ground beef in it, as well, which didn't help, and the tomato sauce that was hinted at between the flattened layers of pasta was not up to the task; larger spoonfuls of it were on the side of the plate, but the sauce was too sweet.
Pepe Nero is a godsend for those wanting a good pizza pie. This new location, too, is an even more enjoyable place to get one than the other two branches, being more spacious and having a lush garden that will no doubt fill out come summer. And seeing as the rest of the menu was so hit-and-miss, it's probably best to stick with the pizzas.
Fiona Gaze can be reached at