The Berlin snack bar “Papa Ari” scares some people. This is not the fault of the pizza, but the owner. It is said to be Arafat Abou-Chaker, a leading head of the Abou-Chaker clan. His activities are concentrated in “Papa Ari” like rays of light in a magnifying glass. The rapper Bushido once reported in court that Abou-Chaker had handed him 70,000 euros in cash in the basement of the store. One time, unknown people shot the glass front of the snack bar one night. Witnesses: none. Because “Papa Ari” is in a prime location for letterbox companies, in Alt-Treptow, which is as far out as it sounds, between car dealers, car resprays and the “Sultan Event Center”. So: how's the pizza?

Friederike Haupt

Political correspondent in Berlin.

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    An evening in March, Ramadan, after sunset. There is a lot of activity in “Papa Ari”. Through the glass front you can see a man kneeling in prayer towards Mecca. Behind him is a boxing machine. Low tables, sofas, stylistic: shisha bar. As it turns out, however, this massive space is “private.” This is what it says on the entrance door. The public dining room only has three tables. Two young men are sitting at one and questioning a third about his faith: “What religion do you currently have?” – Shy: “None.” – Strict: “What, none? You in Bosnia are Orthodox.” – “Hmmm.” – The questioner is impatient: “What religion are your parents?” An older man pulls a salami pizza out of the wood-fired oven.

    The menu includes pizza, pasta and burgers

    The room is simple, only an elaborate inlay work on the counter catches the eye: “Papa Ari”, light wooden pencils placed between dark ones, giving the impression of a poorly done tattoo. The menu shows pizza, pasta, burgers, but also kofta and maqali (“vegan”). The “Papa Ari” pizza, topped with pastirma, a Turkish beef jerky, peppers, Grana Padano and rocket, costs 15.99 euros. This is significant because there are some legends surrounding a pizza fight at “Papa Ari”. Accordingly, the Tiktoker Barello celebrated his birthday with friends here last year, but was then supposed to pay 3,049 euros instead of the agreed 500 euros. Barello, on the other hand, is known to many not because of his pizza appetite, but because of his calls for violence in Germany (“Vallah, words won't help you”) to end the war in Gaza.

    The koftas come with rice, bread, salad, grilled vegetables, hummus, dips and chips. While the man behind the counter prepares the food, the religious interrogation takes place at the next table. The two spokesmen ask the quiet man what he notices in Christian churches. “Jesus, the cross . . .” – “Jesus, right. What is Jesus?” – “A prophet . . ." - "Correct. They worship a prophet. That’s idolatry, isn’t it?” It sounds demanding. The quiet one looks silently at the leftover kofta. Little boys and a girl run around through the doorway, in, out, in, out. Sometimes they take a pizza with them, sometimes a man who looks like Arafat Abou-Chaker flashes through the crack in the door. Is it him? The door is already closed again.

    The older man serves. It is excellent. “Papa Ari” may not be just about the food, but at least it’s also about it; The tomato, for example, was grilled in an exemplary manner, black shreds of its skin indicate this; The knives from the “Lidl” own brand Ernesto cut sharper than usual snack cutlery. Bearded men enter and go straight to the back. The conversation at the next table has died down. Please pay. The calculation is correct.

    A last look back from outside. You can see the large room through the window. Children play a football computer game. Everyone else is somewhere else – in the depths of “Papa Ari”.