With or without cheese? In Marseille, the discord around the “real” Armenian pizza

The “real” Armenian pizza does not include cheese and is prepared with a very thin dough. (©Illustration / Adobe Stock)

Any self-respecting pizzeria displays the classics. Napolitaine, four cheeses, royale… In Marseille, you have to add one to the list: Armenian pizza.

With its diaspora arriving massively after the genocide (1915-1923), Marseille could be named without blushing the capital of France of Armenian gastronomy.

However, traditional cuisine remains relatively unknown to the people of Marseille. And the Armenian pizza served in all the trucks ultimately bears little resemblance to the original recipe.

Pizzas that can be eaten by two

First of all, of course, the “Armenian pizza” has a very specific name in Armenia: the lahmajin.

The lahmajin is prepared with a much finer dough than that of its Italian cousin. Armenian pizza is also supposed to be smaller in diameter. This has its advantage: you can eat several in a row.

Finally, lahmajin is often sprinkled with lemon juice after cooking, which gives it a taste that is both fresh and subtle, thanks to the multiple spices mixed with ground meat.

Cooking (even) faster than its Neapolitan cousin

To know more, News Marseille questioned the managers of two Armenian establishments in Marseille.

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Laurent Vagharchak is the head of O’Bistrot d’Armenie, in the Barasse district (11ᵉ arrondissement). “The principle of Armenian pizza is that it cooks very quickly. This is why you need a very thin dough and a very simple garnish: ground beef, onion, peppers,” he explains.

Small in diameter, the “real” Armenian pizza is often eaten in pairs, “overlapping, a bit like a sandwich”.

According to the restaurateur, it is useless to have a pizza oven: “when the first Armenians arrived in Marseille after the genocide, they asked the local bakers to lend their bread oven. And it worked very well. »

“What you find in the pizzerias here is sh…”

But between the traditional recipe and the recipe adopted by Marseille pizzerias, one food is at the heart of the discord: cheese.

The “real” Armenian pizza is devoid of it. But in Marseille, it is almost impossible to find any without Emmentaler.

That’s why, according to Gaby Tchakirian, manager of Bella Pizza in the 12th arrondissement, “what you find in the pizzerias here is crap… Excuse me. It’s bolognese. Bad Bolognese! »

This former delivery man took over Bella Pizza with his family three years ago. Here, no cheese is on the horizon in Armenian pizza, and “customers sometimes come to order from us just for this pizza”.

What do we find there? Ground meat, peppers, onions. And spices? “Yes, salt… Sorry, I can’t say more because I don’t want to reveal our secrets!” It’s still a recipe that we inherited from our ancestors, so it’s important to keep it intact, ”concludes the restaurateur.

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