Pizza, No Pizza

We might have arrived in Corsica to chase the Tour de France around the island, but who knew that we’d also be chasing pizza.

Corsica: a mountain in the Mediterranean

Corsica: a mountain in the Mediterranean

Our first day in Corsica, we drove from the northern city of Calvi to the southern city of Porto-Vecchio for the first stage. Along the way, we stopped for lunch in Venaco, a small town in the middle of the island.

Tour de France flags lined the streets of the towns along the race route, like these in Venaco
Tour de France flags lined the streets of the towns along the race route, like these in Venaco.

The menu was full of choices. Choices of pizza. We ordered three, along with a bottle of wine. Even though we hadn’t eaten much that day, and were all incredibly hungry, we talked about how good the pizzas looked for several minutes before digging into them.

A glass of local rosé, perfectly paired with pizza

A glass of local rosé, perfectly paired with pizza

20130625-3S1A3661

Put an egg on it: the town of Venaco’s namesake pizza.

Jim ordered the town’s namesake pizza with charcuterie and an egg on it. Iri and I ordered a traditional Corsican pizza with fromage de Corse, honey, charcuterie and an olive oil crust. There were no leftovers. We were hooked. As we drove the rest of the way to the south of the island, we saw so many signs for pizza that we lost count.

2013 Tour de France - Stage 2

2013 Tour de France - Stage 2

That night, we thought we’d see if the pizza was any different in the south. At the restaurant, we looked at the menu, and without hesitation we chose pizza. The waiter came over to take our order, and Jim said, pointing to the menu, We’ll have the pizza.

The waiter said, No pizza.

When asked why, the waiter explained that pizza is not for dinner. It’s for lunch.

We spent the next day visiting teams, picking up media passes and running errands. Having struck out with pizza the night before, that evening we walked to a restaurant close to our hotel. It was mostly tapas, but at the bottom of the menu, they listed pizza.

The waiter approached to take our order. Jim said, We’ll have the pizza.

The waiter shook his head and said, No pizza. Only on Wednesday and Sunday. 

Lightning struck twice for us in ordering bingo. We said we needed a minute. After the waiter left, I looked at Iri, Jim and our friend Veeral, everyone’s favorite crazy Aussie photographer, and I said, Isn’t it Wednesday? 

We confirmed that it was in fact, Wednesday. We waved the waiter back over, Isn’t it Wednesday?

Yes, he replied, then turned to walk away.

Didn’t you say that you have pizza on Wednesdays?

Yes, he replied.

We’d like to order one.

He replied, No pizza.

For explanation he held up his hand and pointed to a small blister on his finger.

At this point, the elusive Corsican pizza had become a joke. Why it was that everyone said they had pizza, but we couldn’t seem to find anyone who actually served it? There were a lot of roadside restaurants and almost all of them had pizza written somewhere on the sign.

A few days later, during the first stage, we needed to stop for lunch and pulled over to a roadside restaurant. On the outdoor awning it said, Corsican Pizza. Finally, we thought. As we opened the doors to get out of the car, I joked that it would be hilarious if this place didn’t actually have pizza.

We walked up to order, standing in front of stacks of empty pizza boxes. Jim said, We’d like to order a pizza.

The woman responded, No pizza.

Floored at being denied pizza whilst standing under a sign that said pizza, and in front of empty pizza boxes, the woman offered a blank stare for an explanation.

The third denial left us dumbfounded. Had we ordered it wrong, somehow? Maybe it’s us, not them? Needing an explanation, I offered a few theories. First, I went semantic on it, questioning the Corsican meaning of the word pizza. I guessed that perhaps it just meant, generally, food is served here, and maybe pizza is part of that and maybe not.

I also guessed that maybe it just means snack, or restaurant. In Texas, all soda is referred to as Coke, so when you they take a drink order, you might ask what kind of Coke they have, to which they’ll answer, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, Fanta etc. Making this linguistic leap complete, perhaps Corsicans refer to  all food as pizza.

The answer still eludes us. Is pizza the Corsican unicorn-an elusive mythological creature? They’ve heard the tales, but few have actually witnessed.

What kind of linguistic culinary  riddle did we stumble on to?

Pizza, no pizza?

2013 Tour de France - Stage 2