the godfather and good mother of pizza
LeFooding--the indispensable guide to French restaurants--claims that La Bonne Mère boasts France’s best pizza. I second that emotion. It’s so tasty there's nothing else on the menu to distract you from keeping your eye on the prize, er, pies.
Everyone is treated like family at La Bonne Mère, whose walls are plastered with pizza-themed drawings by local kids. The cozy 25-seat bar á pizza is a little slice of Italy hidden in the hills of Vauban, with posters from old Italian films, waiters wearing aprons in red, white, and green, and a Faema Legend espresso machine.
Sporting a “La Bonne Mère” trucker hat and chili pepper clogs, Jérémie Piazza, the pizzaiol’ with the apt last name, explains his pies are all about simple, high quality ingredients. His homemade sauce is made with two types of crushed Cirio tomatoes, he uses Castellano mozzarella, an authentic Italian cheese from nearby Aix en Provence, and pesto is made traditionally in a mortar and pestle.
Jérémie’s dough, the pâte, deserves its own Michelin star. Inspired by internships in Naples and the recipe of Rome’s "Michelangelo of pizza”, Gabriele Bonci, the dough is crafted each day from Mulino Marino flour, the same stone-ground heritage grain flour that Bonci uses. It takes 24 hours to rise, then is stretched by hand to remain its integrity. The dough is thin without being crispy and wonderfully toothsome like artisanal bread.
Baked in a wood-fired oven, La Bonne Mére's pizzas are insanely delicious and surprisingly light, unlike the “quiche” Jeremie says is served around town (due to Marseille’s oh-so-French penchant put Emmenthal atop their pies.) A must-have is the anchovy pizza, topped with black olives and fresh anchois—elsewhere this Marseille classic typically comes with bland tinned anchovies-drizzled with olive oil, basil, and garlic. The Parma, pictured above, comes with arugula, cured ham, parmesan shavings and a drizzle of balsamic. Available from November to April, get your Corsica on with La Corsoise, topped with figatelli, sausage made from the island's famous pigs, and brousse, a ricotta-like sheep cheese.
Depending on the day, desserts can include the booziest Baba al Rhum, a Mystère, France's version of a Hood Toasted Almond ice cream pops, or citron glacé, a palate-cleansing lemon sorbet. Or opt for an Italian digestivo—a glass of Zambuca with an espresso bean. To drink, ease into the eve with an Aperol spritz, then order an organically grown Grenache/Syrah blend from the Luberon's Chateau de la Dorgonne or a Provençal-style demi-pichet of rosé.
Like the golden woman, “La Bonne Mère,” who keeps watch over Marseille from the hilltop Notre-Dame de la Garde church nearby, Mahéva Angelmann, Jérémie’s partner in life and love, oversees the room. With her infectious smile and the warmth of an Italian nonna, she dances around the room, handing out bonbons to kids and kissing the regulars in-between orders. On my first visit, she gifted me a hunk of parmesan when she discovered my passion of cooking, sealing my affection for her and her pizzeria.
All the wallets are the same here,” Mahéva says, praising pizza’s appeal across economic strata. La Bonne Mère is “à la bonne franquette”—the French phrase for “no fuss.” It is this informality, as well as the sizeable Italian immigrant community, that contributes to Marseille's pizza’s popularity, whose parlors number that of New York. More on Marseille's pizza history in this great piece in Munchies.
La Bonne Mère is worth the trek up Vauban’s steep slopes—you’ll want to work up an appetite for these phenomenal pies.
tip Pizzas are also available to go. Call ahead, or better yet, sip a glass of vino on the sidewalk while you wait.G
fyi There are two dinner seatings - at 20h and at 21h30 - so if you like to linger with your pizza, choose the second service. Hit up the ATM before you come to this cash only spot.
nearby Notre Dame de la Garde, Sac Mary, Maison Vauban
hours Dinner: Tu-Sa 18 - 22 | Lunch: Sa 12-14h | Reservations essential
16, rue Fort du Sanctuaire