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La Flamme brings Alsatian pizza to the food court

Thin crust, “Fast French” pies, opposite Sbarro

A *flammekueche*, also known as a *la tarte flambée*, or *la flamme" for short
A *flammekueche*, also known as a *la tarte flambée*, or *la flamme" for short

This has to be the most salad I’ve ever eaten at a mall. I’ve walked a couple circuits around the food court of Plaza Bonita, the big shopping center at the border of Chula Vista and National City, and found a pretty tempting roster. There’s a Tajima Ramen, Korean fried chicken, and a dedicated churros counter, plus better than average national chains Shake Shack and Charley’s Cheesesteaks. There’s even a vending machine that pops out fresh cupcakes.

Place

La Flamme Française

3030 Plaza Bonita Rd ste 9274, National City

Finally, behind the Jamba Juice, and opposite of the food court ubiquity, Sbarro pizza, I find what I’m looking for: La Flamme Française.

Unlike most of these businesses, this one’s a new entity, barely three weeks old, and launched by a local, Tracy Santoni, and her French chef partner. And unlike the familiar, New York style pies of Sbarro, the main dishes served at this counter introduce something new to San Diego: French style pizza.

More specifically, it’s the type of flatbread served in Alsace, a mixed cultural region that sits on the border of Germany and France, and has historically bounced between the countries and their respective languages. Thus, the pizza-like dish is known as flammekueche to German speakers, and to the French as la tarte flambée, or simply la flamme.

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A food court counter serving "Fast French" food

Of course, the proprietors here approach it from the French perspective, even coining the term “Fast French” to describe the counter’s quick, casual service. Santoni recently brought the business idea back to San Diego, having spent eight years living and riding her motorcycle around France and its neighboring countries.

That would explain the generous heap of mixed greens served with my flamme. I can’t help notice the irony: while American fast food almost always features a side of French fries, French fast food spots invariably give you leafy greens. They’re also served with La Flamme’s other main dish, quiche ($13.59)

Meanwhile, for those who choose to stick with salad altogether, the little shop also offers a lovely niçoise($12.89).

A broccoli and emmental cheese quiche, and salad, next to a pizza box filled with a "tarte flambée", and salad

Obviously, the main attraction would be the pizza — or, more accurately, the difference between a tarte flambée and the pizza we all know and love. Though baked in a rectangle, with an almost cracker-thin, crispy crust, the most notable difference would be a lack of tomato-based sauce. Instead, it’s slathered with a thyme-infused crème fraiche. Then, rather than mozzarella, it’s topped with Emmental, a type of Swiss cheese.

Toppings remain rather simple. The Traditionnelle Gratinée features onions and thinly sliced bacon, while the L’ail variation adds garlic and La Foristiére adds mushrooms. A vegetarian option leaves the mushrooms but loses the bacon.

One flamme makes for an easy lunch, or a unique pre-movie snack for guests of the cineplex next to the food court. In other words, it’s like a thin crust pizza, except with a different flavor profile, one way more continental than most National City fare. Plus salad.

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A *flammekueche*, also known as a *la tarte flambée*, or *la flamme" for short
A *flammekueche*, also known as a *la tarte flambée*, or *la flamme" for short

This has to be the most salad I’ve ever eaten at a mall. I’ve walked a couple circuits around the food court of Plaza Bonita, the big shopping center at the border of Chula Vista and National City, and found a pretty tempting roster. There’s a Tajima Ramen, Korean fried chicken, and a dedicated churros counter, plus better than average national chains Shake Shack and Charley’s Cheesesteaks. There’s even a vending machine that pops out fresh cupcakes.

Place

La Flamme Française

3030 Plaza Bonita Rd ste 9274, National City

Finally, behind the Jamba Juice, and opposite of the food court ubiquity, Sbarro pizza, I find what I’m looking for: La Flamme Française.

Unlike most of these businesses, this one’s a new entity, barely three weeks old, and launched by a local, Tracy Santoni, and her French chef partner. And unlike the familiar, New York style pies of Sbarro, the main dishes served at this counter introduce something new to San Diego: French style pizza.

More specifically, it’s the type of flatbread served in Alsace, a mixed cultural region that sits on the border of Germany and France, and has historically bounced between the countries and their respective languages. Thus, the pizza-like dish is known as flammekueche to German speakers, and to the French as la tarte flambée, or simply la flamme.

Sponsored
Sponsored
A food court counter serving "Fast French" food

Of course, the proprietors here approach it from the French perspective, even coining the term “Fast French” to describe the counter’s quick, casual service. Santoni recently brought the business idea back to San Diego, having spent eight years living and riding her motorcycle around France and its neighboring countries.

That would explain the generous heap of mixed greens served with my flamme. I can’t help notice the irony: while American fast food almost always features a side of French fries, French fast food spots invariably give you leafy greens. They’re also served with La Flamme’s other main dish, quiche ($13.59)

Meanwhile, for those who choose to stick with salad altogether, the little shop also offers a lovely niçoise($12.89).

A broccoli and emmental cheese quiche, and salad, next to a pizza box filled with a "tarte flambée", and salad

Obviously, the main attraction would be the pizza — or, more accurately, the difference between a tarte flambée and the pizza we all know and love. Though baked in a rectangle, with an almost cracker-thin, crispy crust, the most notable difference would be a lack of tomato-based sauce. Instead, it’s slathered with a thyme-infused crème fraiche. Then, rather than mozzarella, it’s topped with Emmental, a type of Swiss cheese.

Toppings remain rather simple. The Traditionnelle Gratinée features onions and thinly sliced bacon, while the L’ail variation adds garlic and La Foristiére adds mushrooms. A vegetarian option leaves the mushrooms but loses the bacon.

One flamme makes for an easy lunch, or a unique pre-movie snack for guests of the cineplex next to the food court. In other words, it’s like a thin crust pizza, except with a different flavor profile, one way more continental than most National City fare. Plus salad.

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The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
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