We recently went to check out Pisa, a restaurant that was for a long time on our “wanna eat here” list (to tell all the truth, we went on two different occasions in the course of the last month). Pisa is a guesthouse and a restaurant, both located in the same building on Lækjargata 6b in downtown Reykjavík. The guesthouse, which occupies the upper floors, was formerly known as The Ugly Duckling (I suppose for its proximity to the Tjörnin); however, its name was changed to match the Italian restaurant on the street level.
As soon as I entered the restaurant, I noticed the decor, a discreet assortment of old-style figurines, clocks and kitchenware. Some of these items reminded me of my grandma’s old-fashioned trinkets. In addition to these sparse elements, the wooden details of the interior — on the ceiling, windows, doors, and so on — enlivened the impression of a warm, comfortable ambiance.
The first time, we ordered a lobster, capers and parmesan salad (ISK2990) and a carpaccio with parmesan, rocket salad and roast pine nuts (ISK1990) for starters. At the time, the kitchen was out of lobster, so I got prawns as a replacement. After the starter, we both had pizza. It was hard choosing, as all available pizzas seemed quite intriguing. In the end, I went for a Rigoletto with cheese, tomato, prawns and scallops (ISK2520) and the partner in crime had a Tosca with cheese, tomato, ham and mushrooms (ISK2400).
Maybe it has to do with the flour they use locally, but the pizza I had in Iceland is different from the one I had anywhere else and Pisa’s was not an exception. The crust is not extremely crunchy, it’s rather soft and slightly sweet. It’s also thick enough to prevent it from becoming loose and bending in the middle. This quality is especially nice if you like to eat your pizza using your hands — not my case, but worth mentioning. Pisa’s pizza though was a lot better than the pizza from other local restaurants I have tried (like the neighboring Gamla Smiðjan that I found honestly dreadful). The tomato sauce was tasty, even if the abundant cheese covered part of its flavor. I assumed the chef adds nutmeg to the sauce, which made it strangely exotic to my taste buds. All the ingredients were fresh and skillfully chosen and prepared, the presentation was careful but not stand-offish. The prawns in particular were a delight, but the partner in crime assures the tender meat in his carpaccio was just as good and the pine nuts were an excellent complement to it. All in all it was a pleasant surprise.
On our second visit, we tried the fish soup and the dish of the day. They both were accompanied by delicious freshly baked bread, with homemade mayonaise as an extra treat. The soup (ISK1760) was made of smooth tomato with white fish, scallops and prawns and topped with chopped onion, peppers and asparagus. The dish of the day (ISK3500) consisted of white fish on a bed of risotto milanese with cherry tomatoes, topped with a garnish of parmesan and raw vegetables. The fish was very palatable, but the risotto, rich and creamy, was definitely the special touch to it. The partner in crime had a pizza La Traviata (ISK2520) with cheese, tomato, Parma ham and rocket salad, confirming his previous positive impression on the pizza.
The food was good, but the service was even better. The waitresses were utterly polite and very attentive to our needs; they replenished our empty glasses several times and came to our table when they were needed. All this without being overly zealous or noisy and ruining the mood. Waiting times were great, not too slow but not too fast either, so you could actually taste the food and have a chat. The atmosphere was overall very nice and relaxed. Other customers lingered awhile after finishing their meal, which is always evidence of an agreeable environment.
Pisa is middle-priced for Reykjavík; if however you plan to go just for a cheap pizza, this is perhaps not the place you should look for. As I mentioned, the restaurant is more than a pizzeria, as besides pizza it serves a variety of other dishes like pasta (from lasagne alla bolognese to spaghetti alla carbonara), risotti, soups, several meat and fish courses, and a children menu. I was too stuffed for that, but Pisa also offers an interesting choice of desserts. Among their options are classics as gelato, crème brûlée and tiramisù. The restaurant has also a decent winelist, both for reds and whites. The lunch menu, which expands the regular one with seasonal ingredients, changes almost on a daily basis.