Imagine that you give a disc-shaped flat dough to an extraterrestrial creature and tell it to put whatever food ingredients it wants on top of it. Then you tell it to shove it in the oven. Imagine the wonderful, and horrible, things that you would find inside that oven. Interesting, then, how in the cradle of pizza, Italy, there is such a lack of imagination. They don't use many ingredients, and the different varieties often consist of removing one ingredient or adding another. That is unless you get a pizza which is covered by ”leaves and twigs”, as a disillusioned friend described his experience of ordering a Quattro Stagioni in Rome.
Of course, there is another word for this lack of imagination: tradition. An Italian would probably say that there are two ways to bake a pizza: ”mi a mamma's way and the a wrong way”. So, maybe it's only natural that the farther you go from Italy, the more pizza bakers will employ a blissful disregard for tradition. In Sweden, for example, you can get exciting pizza with influences from the four corners of the world, such as Turkey and Mexico. Of course, there are also tripwires like the ”Calskrove”, which is a Calzone that contains ... a complete hamburger with fries (don't believe me? Just watch this). But in general, Swedish pizza is great, and it's so popular that in every forest clearing with a population greater than 10 people you will also find a pizzeria.
”don't be surprised when you sit down and sink halfway down to the floor”
However, since Riga is closer to Rome than is the cozy igloo where I grew up, pizza bakers here stick more firmly to the traditional Italian pizza. Fine by me, though, as long as they are well-prepared and the baker uses good quality ingredients. And this is exactly what you'll get at pizzeria Piranija in Quiet Center. On one of my first visits there, many moons ago, the lady who worked there claimed that they have a reputation of being the best pizzeria in Riga. After quite a number of visits there since, I'm inclined to agree.
There are only so many combinations of bread, cheese, tomato sauce, chicken, ham, salami and olives, so don't expect some novel taste explosions in your mouth. However, the crust is wonderfully thin and tasty, the cheese is perfect and the meat toppings I've tried have all been great and have had a good degree of saltness. The Calzone might be the best one I've tried in Riga so far. For the tag alongs in your company who don't like pizza, there is also pasta and salad. Although there is nothing wrong with Piranija's pasta dishes, they are not particularly great either. This becomes extra obvious when you consider that Piranija is located right in the middle of a number of really good, genuine Italian restaurants in the same district.
”i don't know why pizza is so expensive in latvia”
Piranija's interior is just too strange not to mention. It's a surf-themed restaurant, with photos, boards and other surf-related stuff all over the walls. For me, this is an odd choice, since I've always associated windsurfing with a healthy lifestyle, and pizza with obesity, jogging pants which have never seen 5 meters of jogging, and a high consumption of deodorants. But somehow it works. What does not work, however, are the couches you have to sit on... Don't be surprised when you sit down and sink halfway down to the floor. To be decently elevated for eating, you'll need to grab a handful of pillows to sit on.
Finally, just some closing comments about the menu. The pizzas all only have names and there is no list of ingredients, so you have to inquire about each and every one of them. In particular from a foreigner's perspective, adding the ingredients to the menu would be really helpful. Also, while on the subject of the menu: I don't know why pizza is so expensive in Latvia. Piranija is no exception. Some pizzas are just shy of €10. These are Swedish prices (if this comparison means nothing to you, know this: Sweden is the 2nd most expensive country in the EU. In this ”you don't wanna win this competition” competition, Latvia is a distant 19th). Even though you do get great pizzas at Piranija, you'd wish that they would consider Latvianizing their prices a bit.