Words were fluttering about in the air, like lovesick butterflies on an early summer morning. My friend and the chef were engaged in a lively discussion about ingredients, cooking styles, fresh fish straight from the sea... or so I guess. Even if I would have understood their language, I wouldn't have been able to focus on their conversation anyway. I was busy enjoying the soft touch of the hot night air on my skin, the sounds of the sea making love to the shore, the deep dark surrounding the little island of light which was the small group of dining tables on the pavement... but primarily, I was completely immersed in the smell and taste of the best pizza I had last year. It was a simple one, but the superb quality of the ingredients, and the perfection of its baking, created a symphony in my mouth. When the sound of waves swallowed the last notes of the final movement, the waiter placed the bill on the table. Rarely have I been so happy to part with €7.
”getting on that plane in trapani and returning to rix was a painful experience”
From the vile, cheesy love metaphors in the preceding paragraph, you should be able to tell that this did not take place in Latvia. No, that's right: Sicily. From a pizza perspective, getting on that plane in Trapani and returning to RIX was a painful experience. Not that I have been (terribly) disappointed in Latvian pizza in the past, but I haven't really felt invited to write embarrassing poetry about it either. However, every now and then, I've heard good things about this place across Daugava, near the national library. After they opened shop also in the city center, I really had no excuse not to go. And so, during one of my lunch break escapes from the daily grind in a bleak and dreary office, I figured it was time.
After going to Picas Meistars some four or five times, I sort of see where they got their good reputation. This is quality stuff. I think many pizza connoisseurs would agree with me that the base of any good pizza, figuratively and literally, is the crust. At Picas Meistars, the crust is near perfect. Not too thin, not too thick, not too crunchy, not too flabby. It's immediately obvious that the other ingredients are top notch too, and I especially like the cheese that they use. I also highly appreciate the collection of sauce bottles standing on the counter.
”what they do, they do really well. but then what?”
However, if you paid close attention to my choice of words, you're surely by now waiting for the ”but”. I feel that Picas Meistars is walking in the same footsteps as nearly all the other pizzerias in Riga – the selection of pizzas is just not that exciting. The possible variations of the traditional pizza ingredients aren't endless. There are tons of ideas to be stolen from other cuisines which use a lot of bread in their dishes; just flip through a Cuban, Turkish, Greek et al. cookbook, and you'll see what I mean. Sure, they have an Indian(!) and a Thai(!!) pizza, but honestly, judging by the list of ingredients, I really don't feel like trying them. They also have a ”Latviešu” pizza, but I'm not sure I understand exactly what's so Latvian ab... aaah. Of course. Dilles.
Another small complaint would be about the price. You won't see Porsches and Maseratis parked outside Picas Meistars, but still – having to cough up €8–10 for some of the normal size pizzas is bordering on expensive.
To sum up, I don't see myself becoming a regular at Picas Meistars anytime soon. Neither the menu or the atmosphere in this neat, but unexciting pizzeria really beckons me to go there frequently. What they do, they do really well. But then what?