Who by now doesn't know Margherita? This famous pizzeria, which opened its door first along the Gemmayze district in 2008, brings Lebanon a whole new meaning and taste to Italian cuisine. Since then, Margherita has expanded, opening in various locations around Lebanon including ABC Achrafieh, Horsh Tabet, Jounieh's old souk and more recently in the latest Blueberry Square in Dbayeh. With a few friends, I headed down to Margherita located in old Jounieh souks, where the whole authentic Italian food experience is simply praiseworthy.
The Jounieh spot oozes a Mediterranean feel on so many levels. A location exerting flair of salt, waves and sea, Margherita has combined both popular Mediterranean cultures in the best way possible. Italy and Lebanon meet in the heart of Jounieh's old souk, nestled behind the main strip of shops. There, stands an old Lebanese house perfectly refurbished and preserved, where premium ingredients blend perfectly to satisfy the most demanding of clients.
One of the many Mediterranean traits is our love for neighborhood. We like to live in a warm and welcoming environment; this is one of the reasons we all love Margherita.
Margherita is not only one of the best pizzerias in town, it is also a place where people hangout, familiar faces meet, families gather and neighbors catch up on their everyday life – all around a selection of tasteful Antipasti, Zuppe, Pizze and Dolce. You reach a simple door, no signs whatsoever. A window displaying jars filled with the famous local big tomatoes, you are greeted with an intriguing first impression. What lies behind those jars? You are a just a few steps away from a large, well lit, and warmly decorated two leveled space…
Margherita's fine and simple architecture:
- Choose between the main dining area, the closed terrace or the outside seashore balcony
- Brown wood flooring
- A long stone arch, famous in old Lebanese houses
- The pizza furnace on the left with a metallic stylish design
- Drinks bar decorated with a flower pot adding a fine feminine touch
- An open kitchen grilling the finest Italian preparations
- Wooden tables cover all the space, surrounded by casual chairs with their red cushions
- To the right is a black board displaying today's specials
The details I loved:
- Wood pepper and salt mills are available on all the tables
- Margherita serves your food in their own signature branded plates
- Simple paper place-mats give a feel of cleanliness
- Soft Italian music soothes all your senses
- Smoking is strictly not allowed
- The food is beautifully served on a plate making it even more appetizing
- The staff blends in perfectly. They are all happy, smiling and enjoying their time
A wonderful ambiance that transports you to Napoli for couple of hours...
The Menu sections and possibilities:
Antipasti, Bruschette, PrimiPiatti, Pizze, SecondiPiatti di Pesce, SecondiPiatti di Carne, Contorni, Dolci, Vini, Prosecco, Il Caffe, Le Bevande non Alcoliche.
- Insalata Caprese con Bufala (Caprese salad with mozzarella bufala, tomatoes and basil)
- Tagliata di Tonno Mediterraneo (Mediterranean tuna tagliaia style)
- Saltimbocca Pizza (tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella, ham, mushrooms and basil)
- Diavola Pizza (tomato sauce, mozzarella, spicy salami and basil)
- Impepata di Cozze (Mussels with pepper)
- Tiramisu Classico
- Crostata al Cioccolato Nero
- Crema Bruciata al Limone
Lunch started with a breadbasket filled with two pieces of French bread with their couple of marked grilling lines and three slices of Italian olive oil Foccacia perfectly seasoned with thick salt and herbs. To accompany our sumptuous lunch is a fine wine I recommend: "Rosso di Montepulciano 2010, Carpineto."
The fine culinary experience:
- The Caprese Salad is fresh and tasty. A simple yet mouthwatering presentation of six triangular pieces of tomatoes, covered with sliced pieces of basil surrounding the mozzarella bufala. Accompanied with Lolla Rossa lettuce, the mix is seasoned with pesto sauce and olive oil.
- The tuna is amazing. Four thick slices of pink tuna, slightly grilled from the outside, juicy from the inside and served with a tasty eggplant mix, diced tomatoes and basil leaves. A seasoning that adds all the needed flavors: Olive oil, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. A yummy plate I surely recommend.
- The pepper mussels are as good as they should be. Fresh, and most importantly smell good. Well seasoned without too much sophistication. I love how the pepper taste is sensed with every bite.
- The pizzas are another story: It all starts with the dough. A perfectly rounded 30cm pizza dough, super thin on the inside, a thick and spongy crust on the outside with a touch of crunchiness that is slightly felt with every bite. You cannot but devour this complete heavenly creation. As for the mix, a unique combination of freshly prepared tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella balls and other ingredients depending on your craving. Margherita is the only pizza restaurant to use small mozzarella balls instead of the wrapped or sliced cheese. More so, the tomato sauce is freshly made containing diced tomato cubes which all add up the finesse of their pizza. Two thumbs up. Both pizzas are finger licking good. I couldn't but say "Mmmm" after every single bite.
- Usually, out of experience, a restaurant cannot succeed in both main dishes and desserts. Today, I was astonished. The desserts are even better. So delicious, so tasty, so unique... Simply prepared with passion. Dark chocolate, crunchy tart, fresh Tiramisu served in a cup, tasty creme brûlée, all up to the standards of a fine dining restaurant. I really congratulate the chef and the recipe creator.
- The menu is disgusting. No! It’s unacceptable. Please change it. A very bad and awful first impression for such a premium restaurant.
- The French bread served at the beginning is too cold and chewy. We were three persons and we were only served with two pieces. They should have been three warm crunchy pieces.
- The Creme Brûlée is too cold. I am not asking for it to be hot, but surely it should be warmer.
Today, I was mesmerized... Happily astonished! It has been three years since my last visit to Margherita (Gemmayze branch). I can’t believe that I have deprived my palatal buds from this unique five stars Italian experience for so long.
It’s a perfect restaurant from the minute you enter this restaurant up until the last second you leave. Diala, the restaurant's manager, is perfect. Her professionalism, smile and attention to details made our experience memorable. She checked on us many times, making sure everything was great, just like a host would do in her own house. Dear owners, hang on to her, she’s a rare gem in today’s hospitality world.