Zurich's Pumpkin Pizza
Amsterdam Day 2 | Part 2
My second day in Amsterdam was so long that I had to split it into two parts!
If you haven’t read Part 1 | Dutch Donuts & Van Gogh, catch-up here.
Otherwise, here’s how I finished out Amsterdam Day 2.
Cheese Shops and Souvenirs
Rene’s Croissant’s was in the middle of the restaurant district before it blended into businesses. I slid my sleeve of cookies into my pocket and merged into the crowd of people.
There were art stores with re-prints of famous paintings and artwork. I found another cheese shop (see below). I was looking for the red wax Baby Belle-style cheeses. The owner only had everyday sized blocks. I did try another free sample and it was wonderful!
Every other shop seemed to be for deli sandwiches. They were so busy that I couldn’t step inside to look around, so I took photos of their window displays.
I wandered through jewelry and bookstores, searching for souvenirs. I didn’t see anything that impressed me so I took photos instead.
The American Walks into a Kitchen…
Several hours had passed. I explored every side-street on this end of the city. By the time I looped the same block twice, I realized it was about dinnertime.
I started towards the Anne Frank House, expecting to find a decent restaurant along the way.
I walked parallel to the canal, passing the cafe that I had seen the previous night. The cafe was a small corner shop with large windows. You could see the menu written on the restaurant’s back wall with chalk. Everything seemed homemade, except it only offered breakfast-style dishes. If you know my feelings about breakfast foods, then you know I didn’t stop in here to have dinner.
After I passed the bookstore, I slowed down, looking more closely into the windows. Some of the stores were below the sidewalk level, so it was difficult to see if they were private homes or businesses.
I passed one that was a restaurant. I remembered it from the night before, but it was closed when I first found it.
I held the metal railing and stepped down the brick steps into the doorway of an industrial kitchen. A short bald man wearing an apron was within my line of sight. He was speaking with a curly-haired woman who was leaning behind the prep-station.
“Um, hi. Is this the entrance, or is there another…?” I trailed off, indicating to the other side of the block. I seemed out-of-place standing in the doorway of their kitchen. It smelled delicious though, like herbs and chicken.
“No, this is it.” The man gestured around the kitchen.
“And what kind of food do you serve?”
“Israeli,” the man answered.
I had no idea what kind of food that was, so I asked, “Is there a menu nearby?” I turned to the woman since she was closest to a shelf of spices and papers.
“No.” She answered.
“Do you have a reservation?” The man asked.
“Um, no — you only accept people with reservations?”
“Yes. Parties of 12.” The woman said.
“Do you have 12 friends?” The man joked.
They laughed, “You don’t have 12 friends?!”
No, not really, I thought. But I said, “Not with me.”
They laughed and didn’t add anything, “Can you recommend any restaurant nearby?” I asked. Surely the locals would have a preference for the non-touristy spots. “Where do you like to go to eat?” I added.
“At home.” The man said. He adjusted the straps of his apron. The woman didn’t say anything.
This conversation is going nowhere, I thought.
“Well, thanks for the help.” I trekked back up the steep steps. I don’t remember if they bothered to answer.
I turned right, back in the direction of the Anne Frank House. Apple Maps told me there was a nearby seafood restaurant, but I wasn’t in the mood to have seafood. The neighborhood had a vegan restaurant and another breakfast spot, but I was searching for something richer than salad on this cold, rainy day.
I ended back at the stop for Tram 13. I caught the tram back to my stop at Marco Polostraat.
French Fries with Mayo?
Once again, I was looking at the restaurant options within Hoofdweg’s neighborhood.
I stood with my back against the wall outside “The Cafeteria” and Apple Mapped the restaurant across the street. This restaurant was a cafe, and didn’t offer any innovative recipes. It had salads and farro bowls, but I figured it was better than mayo fries.
I was looking to cross the street when I vaguely remembered there was a butcher with pre-packed, home-cooked meals at the end of the block.
I could look in there and see if there’s anything more authentic…
Rather than crossing the street, I decided to continue down the length of the block. If I didn’t see the butcher or anything else that was better than the cafe, then I would cross the street and backtrack.
Noodles and Poke
After I crossed the street I did see a better dinner option: noodles and poke.
My Airbnb’s street was a main drag of road. It went on for miles and miles, stitched with tram tracks and bike paths. On my way to the tram, I missed this small strip mall that was perpendicular to the road. This is where the noodle restaurant was.
I approached their sign and peeked in the window. The restaurant’s dark green booths were empty. The menu on the front of their window seemed like it included a version of ramen, though they also offered poke (a Hawaiian dish of raw fish over rice).
An empty restaurant, plus raw fish, in the middle of a neighborhood in Amsterdam might not be the best combination…I thought.
I sighed — now it was 4:30 pm, raining harder, and I was now on 21% battery. I still didn’t have a restaurant that I would jump-for-joy to eat at.
I was leaning against the exterior wall of the Asian restaurant, looking out across an open, paver square. The left half of the square had wooden planters filled with trees. The planters framed a dome-shaped building. Lights from the dome building warmed the darkening square.
Is that a restaurant? I thought.
I stepped to the edge of the sidewalk to avoid the rain. There appeared to be a line of motor bikes parked along the planter boxes. Behind them, the planters made a private patio area. Wooden tables for two lined the length of the space.
Yep — that’s it. By this point, what was running across a square in the middle of the rain going to do?
So I did, trying to avoid the puddles with my Adidas. I made it to the front of the building, which had a black overhang and outdoor rug leading the way to its open front doors.
I stepped into the restaurant. To my left was the circular bar. One waitress with a vintage watch sat two stools in and ate French fries.
Four tall, bar-top tables with chairs sat against the windows parallel to the bar. The rest of the room was a collection of dining rooms. Larger tables were in the back left corner. Two and four-top tables were in the center of the room, on the other side of the bar. A divider wall separated the two-top tables against the windows on the right.
I observed this as I waited. It was unclear to me throughout my trip if you seat yourself at these places or if you wait. I waited for a while, the waitress at the bar wasn’t looking up from her phone or food. I made eye contact with another waitress coming from the right-hand corner of the dining room. She was short with a dark bun of brown hair and a sleeve tattoo. “Can I sit wherever?” I asked.
I took the last table on the left before the dining room. The circular tables were small, probably because you’re only supposed to balance your drinks on them.
My window seat looked out across their patio. Their small circular tables looked like a slice of a tree trunk. The rain swiped the glass as it came down. Evenings outside when it is warm (is it ever warm in Amsterdam?) must make Zurich’s a popular location.
The waitress handed me a clip-board style menu. It was a single white page, one-sided. Zurich’s bold font rested in the center of the header on a thick red line. Underneath, flush left, was each menu section. Here’s an example of a recipe from each section:
Croissant with jam & butter or ham and cheese
Eggs white / brown bread
Sunny-side up eggs with bacon, cheese, ham, or tomato
Toasties white/brown bread
Cheese / ham & cheese / cheese & tomato
Pastrami with pickled cabbage, mustard mayonnaise, and lettuce
Black Angus burger with cheddar, herb mayonnaise, pickles, tomato, fried onion
Big Noodle Bowl: soy broth, Asian vegetables, and pork belly
I wanted to order something that was warm and hearty, especially since it was rainy and raw. What caught my eye, of course, was the “Big Noodle Bowl.” It reminded me of ramen with its noodles and pork belly.
When the waitress finally returned I asked for the soup.
“Sorry, we just sold out.” She said.
It’s Thursday night at 5. I thought. They must be a good restaurant if they sell out of their food.
“Umm…” I looked back at the menu. My decision-making skills in-the-moment are A1. I was looking at the sandwiches, but figured a sandwich wouldn’t be as warm and filling as soup. I did see “pumpkin” which caught my attention, but it was a pumpkin pizza.
We’re not in New York, how could the Dutch make pizza crust?
Well, we’re about to find out, cause I said, “I’ll have the pumpkin pizza, and a Heineken.”
Now, I don’t really drink — only a glass of wine here-and-there at dinner. If I had to choose a drink, it wouldn’t be beer. However, when in Rome — I couldn’t visit Amsterdam and not have a Heineken.
Beach Boys & Date Night
The ironic part of visiting other countries is that they play all of our music. I found that when I was in establishments I was humming along to the music until I thought, Wait, they’re playing Ed Sheeran in English? It makes you wonder if they’re playing music because they enjoy it, or for background noise.
Zurich’s seemed like they were playing 102.3 — all these older 80s-90s classics I haven’t heard since I was a kid. The Beach Boys came on at one point (which I love), but I couldn’t help but laugh. It was a strange experience.
I observed a variety of people considering it was early dinnertime on a weeknight. One table over from me looked to be a mother and daughter having large glasses of white wine. They were there before I arrived.
By the time I got my beer, another girl took the table near the door, and was joined by a dark-haired young man in a blue peacoat. They also had many bags, and they balanced them against the table base.
My First Heineken in Amsterdam
I’ve tried beer such as Corona, Stella Artois, homemade pumpkin spice, and Yuengling. I figured Heineken would be light, and the best place to try it would be where it’s produced.
Luckily, the glass I received was pretty small (maybe a half-pint), which, since I’m a lightweight, was a good thing.
I’m not a beer connoisseur, but I do remember how cold it was — like, feel it all the way down to your stomach cold, which was refreshing. It was a light beer and I did think: This is like a Corona.
What was most impressive is that it was €5!
Zurich’s Pumpkin Pizza
I took notes about the restaurant and went through my hundreds of photographs before my pizza arrived.
It was a long personal pizza on top of a wooden board. I was pleasantly surprised — it smelled delicious.
I started with a small piece of crust to review its texture. The dough was fluffier than NY/NJ pizza, though the bottom did have a bit of a golden crust. When I cut a piece it did hold its shape. For Amsterdam pizza this was a 7 out of 10
The pumpkin flavor was subtle. I personally don’t think it needed any more flavors because of the toppings, though as I’ve said in other reviews, if you’re going to advertise pumpkin you might as well make it apparent.
According to the menu, the pizza is topped with: ham, mozzarella, BBQ-onions, spring onions, crème fraîche, and “rocket greens” (arugula).
The mozzarella was grated to blend together with the crème fraîche to provide an Alfredo-sauce type of base.
Next came the BBQ-ed onions. They provided some sweetness since it was caramelized and lightly tossed in BBQ sauce. Strips of sliced ham mixed throughout the sauce. The ends were crisped from the oven. Sprinkled throughout the pizza was scallions which added some freshness and bite.
Piled on top, was peppery arugula (my favorite). In all — this felt more like a personal flatbread. The ingredients were fresh and, given the length of time to arrive, the pizza was probably homemade.
Stroopwafels for Dessert
I didn’t see any dessert or coffee available on Zurich’s menu. I planned on microwaving my sleeve of stroopwafels to try anyway.
I ate half of my pizza and wrote at my table for a while. Now it was dark outside. All of the bar seats were filled — an older couple with their son and daughter, one man who was friends with the bartender, the wine-drinking mother and daughter left.
The bartender came around and switched the menus out. When she came by I said, “Excuse me, can I get this wrapped?” I indicated to my remaining pizza.
“Huh?” It was getting pretty loud in the restaurant.
“Can I wrap this?” I repeated. She still was looking at me. “To take home?” I added.
“Oh, you want to take out?” She asked.
Yes…? I thought.
“Yes, bring it home.” I pointed to the pizza.
“Okay.” She finished replacing the menus and disappeared to the other side of the restaurant.
Note to my Americans, “take-out” in both Amsterdam and Italy, is the way you say to “wrap” your food and bring it home.
Twenty Pages Later…
I was still writing for a l-o-n-g time, which I didn’t mind. Writing my adventures from the day passed the time. I drank two bottles of sparkling water, but had given up on my beer.
I never saw the tattooed waitress again. Finally the bartender came back and remembered, “Oh! The takeout.” She took my pizza away and came back with a Chinese food container.
She stuffed my half-a-pizza into a large Chinese food container? I thought. What’s the point of taking it home then? I’m gonna eat it like a pot-pie?
“Thanks.” She went back behind the bar and continued making drinks.
I saw the mother and daughter pay on the other side of the bar counter, near the dining room. So I pulled on my jacket, layered on my bags and went around the counter.
The bartender was busy, so I stood near the digital display so they could print my receipt. Another waitress stood next to me typing on a tablet. After a few minutes she looked up and strung out a phrase in Dutch.
I looked at her, trying to recall how to say, “I’m sorry, I only speak English” in Dutch, but it completely escaped my mind so I was taking too long to answer. So I said, “Uh — I don’t understand.”
She stepped up the platform into the bar to type in the machine. “You’re ready to pay?” She asked in English.
Thank god. I thought. “Yes.”
“Where did you sit?”
I pointed to the corner table my tattooed waitress was now sitting at.
“Okay.” She typed on the display and printed me a receipt. “€14.”
Wow, that’s pretty good. I thought. I ran my card and signed the receipt. This was the moment where I realized that my Dutch donut and cappuccino was more expensive than the pizza, beer, and two sparkling waters.
“Thank you.” I handed her my receipt and stepped back out under the entry overhang. It was really raining now. I kept my camera bag under my coat, pulled up my hood, and power walked back to the apartment.
Two days was more than enough time (for me) to explore Amsterdam. I would consider going back to Amsterdam for the spring, to see the tulips and windmills.
Overall, I feel like I made the most of my two days, having seen the major monuments and works I wanted. The canal ride and cheese shops were the most memorable aspects of my visit. I’m glad I didn’t block my entire vacation to stay in Amsterdam or I think I would’ve starved. I didn’t find any spectacular recipes, though Zurich’s was the best meal I had.
Day 3 of my vacation in Europe brings me to Florence, Italy — which I am so thrilled to share. You can read about the journey from Amsterdam to Florence here.