With pizza cocktails and chopsticks, Fabian Martin's pizzeria is no ordinary pizza joint. Dubbed the world's most creative pizzeria, this bolthole in Cerdanya has its own story to tell: it's an island of Spain surrounded by France. Let's have a look around...
Inside Fabian Martin's Pizzeria
“I’m not a cook. I’m a fixer man.”
So begins Fabian Martin's introductory talk. It's an ominous line from anyone, never mind a former boxer.
Not only is Fabian Martín the head chef of a restaurant (the one I’m sitting in,) he’s also won countless prizes for his cooking (the food I’m about to eat) and on top of all that, he’s also a boxer (a skillset I’m hoping won’t come up today.)
He sprints and ducks and dives and raises his fists for the camera. I take a mouthful of fresh rocket, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and wonder what he means by being a “fixer man.”
Cerdanya: the island of Spain within France
We’re in the small (and I mean small) village of Llívia in Cerdanya in northern Spain. We’re so far north that the town itself sits completely surrounded by France.
In 1659, instead of choosing between “fixer man” and “cook,” the villages of Cerdanya (or Cerdagne in French) had to decide between “France” and “Spain.”
Where some areas of the world have fought for generations over such issues, the people of the Pyrenees tried something different.
Some villages chose France; some chose Spain. Llívia lives on (sorry!) being just the way it wants to be: Spanish. In just the place it already is: France. With an identity that's distinctly Catalan.
The Story Behind Fabian Martin's Pizzeria
Fabián Martín himself has a healthy approach to change and choice as well.
When a car accident ruined his plans for the Olympics in Atlanta, he found himself at 25 years old with no money, no job and no future.
“I had been a bad student,” he confesses.
With few options left on, he worked as a pizza delivery boy and turned his life around. He met his wife and together they built up a pizza business. When she became pregnant, he had to learn to cook.
THE MOST CREATIVE PIZZA IDEAS
Where most see a doughy base, a tomato topping, some cheese and whatever else you have in the cupboard, Martín saw ideas. Pizza ideas.
He took an Italian dish in the middle of Spain in the middle of France and turned it into something else.
He made pizza cocktails and sushi pizza. He deconstructed pizza and reconstructed it with coca cola and ice cream – and won award after award after award for his efforts.
And he served it all on plastic tableware he grew up with.
An Egalitarian Approach
That’s the other interesting paradox about Martín's Pizzeria. It's high gourmet food but with an egalitarian approach.
“I don’t want to be elitist,” he says as he pounds dough and spins it through the air.
Our drinks arrive: coca-cola, beer, cava, orange juice. At Martín’s pizzeria, you can eat and drink what you like. No pretensions, no obligations, no expectations.
Drinking a Pizza Cocktail
I sip the pizza cocktail, a wafer of pizza dough on the side, a creamy cheese topping smothering a Virgin Bloody Mary. It’s certainly different, it’s certainly good, it’s certainly one of the most inventive things I’ve tasted.
Martín continues to talk at the pace of a man in the ring, fighting for his life.
A fixer man he may be. But he’s also a damn fine cook.
Note: this post was originally published in 2011. Fabian Martin's Pizzeria now lives in Girona.
Disclosure: I travelled through France to reach the pizzeria thanks to the Girona Tourist Board. Sounds complicated, but it isn’t. He gets to make pizza just the way he wants; I get to write about it just the way I want. As usual. As it should be.
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