Provencal cuisine doesn’t depend entirely on elegance although cafes are less in number as are fast-food joints with the exception of populated towns as Avignon, Aix or Apt.
As a respite from the haute bourgeois or the haute bohemian, pizza restaurants abound in the region, offering moments of decompression, cuisine unplugged and causal, a remedy for lassitude brought on by summer heat or casserole burnout. Not a budget-breaker to boot, pizza marries well with rosé.
There are tourists to the region that revel in the produce of farmers markets, cheeses, charcuterie and wines to stock their gites, preferring to eschew top-drawer establishments for casual outings to cafés – the daily deals posted on a chalk board gets their attention – and to pizzerias, bolstered at both spots by generous volumes of the local wine.
In Provence, pizza is a sensible food choice, a healthier pie than the pizza chain varieties overloaded with cheese — even the crusts may be cheese-stuffed – and swimming in sauce. Here, pizza is Italian style: thin-crusted, wood-fired oven baked, dabbed with first press olive oil and baked with fresh veggies directly from the farm, lightly sauced with cheese added for flavoring. Pizza in Provence is spared the ritualistic trappings that the dish attracts in America: beer-and-pizza-fueled weekends in front of sports-filled LCD screens, on the cheap office parties, pig-outs at frat houses or balloon-festooned settings for kids’ birthday celebrations.
Nor is the Provencal landscaped trashed with pizza coupons whereas in the states pizza ‘specials’ are omnipresent: coupons tacked up on bulletin boards and refrigerator doors, coupons littering urban spaces — apartment lobbies, laundromats, dormitories — coupons as junk mail or in irritable web site specials pop-up ads, as well as those nauseating chirpy TV commercials. Final note: there is no “delivery culture” here, which cuts down on double-parking and gas consumption.
Gastronomic note: goat cheese-flavored pies are superb. Here are some pizza joints along with some select wines to quaff with the slices:
Maubec: Restaurant La Bergerie, a lively jazz-themed restaurant tucked away in a medieval village, serves the best vegetarian pizza in the region, as well as a menu of Provencal specialties.
Rosé: Château Minuty, Côtes de Provence AOC; Red: Bastide de la Verrerie or Domaine la Verrerie, Côtes du Lubéron AOC
Address: 75 chemin du puits de Grandaou, Maubec, Tel 04 90 76 83 95, Head south on D2 from Coustellet and follow signs to village. Web site.
Lourmarin: Pizzeria Nonni, which serves excellent provencal-style pizza in a cozy and warm interior on cools days or on warm summer evenings at quiet sidewalk tables nestled around the Fontaine la Cordière. A short walk up the slope of rue Henri de Savornin from the center of the village and the Café Gaby leads directly to the Nonni. Reservations for outdoor dining a must. Closed Mondays.
Wine: Château Constantin-Chevalier, Côtes du Lubéron AOC
Address: 2, rue Albert Camus, Lourmarin, Tel 04 90 68 23 33
Gordes: Restaurant Le Provençal. In the Provence-chic perched village of Gordes, Le Provençal offers a respite from pricey eateries as well as a splendid view of the main square and the Château illuminated at night. Ample terrace is covered. Picnic-like ambiance.
Address: Place du Château, Gordes, Tel 04 90 72 10 01
L’Isle sur la Sorgue: Pizzeria Au Fil de L’eau. Cool, hip and trendy, this place rocks as does its pizza. Great location on the quai in center of the village. Check out this hot spot on Facebook.
Address: 15 quai Rouget de L’isle sur la Sorgue Tel 04 90 38 11 70, closed Tuesday until July.
Bedoin: Pizzeria Chez Pierre, a spacious joint offering 60 pizza varieties and tables in outdoor garden, is at the northern edge of the village on a street leading from the Place Portail Olivier (site of the restaurant Escapade touted in a previous PVB post). Bedoin is a village in the northern Vaucluse at the foot of the iconic Mount Ventoux and is a stopover for cyclists before they challenge the steep limestone summit.
Wine: Château Valcombe produced in nearby village of Saint Pierre de Vassols
Address: Chemin de la Ferraille, Bedoin, Tel. 04 90 65 95 33
Suzette: Les Coquelicots, situated is at the foot of the small hilltop village of Suzette at over 1000 feet in the heart of the Dentelles de Montmirail, serves pizza is served only in the summer months. Terrace (photo in heading above) offers dining among the vines.
Wines: Suzette is known for its Beaumes-de-Venise crus – ruby red wines that grow in the ochre-colored Trias soil. Most of the vintages are Grenache Syrah blends, with Grenache being dominant at 60% to 65%. Two reds are Château Redortier and Domaine St-Amant. Also on the wine list is the rosé of Domaine le Van, with less than 1% sugar.
Suzette can be accessed from Beaumes-De-Venise (D90), Malaucene (D90) or Barroux.
Address: Les Coquelicots – Le Village, 84190 Suzette, Tel 04 90 65 06 94, web site
Pernes-les-Fontaines: Restaurant Piu di Prima Chez Vito, known to locals as ‘Vito,’ is the flashy scene among all ages for pizza and Italian dishes in the Vaucluse. Ambiance of California w/o the beach. Large bar, TV screens in the interior dining area that seats 225. Huge terrace and pool. Youtube says it all.
Address: On the Grand Route de Carpentras (D938) between Pernes-les-Fontaines and Carpentras, Tel 04 90 60 00 10. Open daily. website
Saint Didier Roadside Pizza: Pizzas “Le Repaire,” Open everyday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Takeout only. Twenty-two varieties of tasty Italian-style pizza light on cheese. Try the Quatre Saisons. Every village and hameau has at least one take-away only pizza shack. No delivery.
The roundabout is located at the intersection of D1 from Carpentras to Venasque and D4 from Pernes-les-Fontaine and Mazan. Coming from Saint Didier, follow signs to the Cave La Courtoise. Le Repaire, nestled among oaks, is just north of the roundabout on D1, direction Carpentras, opposite side from the Cave La Courtoise.
Address: Roundabout Cave La Courtoise, Saint Didier, Tel: 06 24 78 79 09