An evening at Pizza Pilgrims, Soho
|Corner shop – Pizza Pigrims, Soho|
Much has been written about the Pizza Pilgrims. Those who live in London and have an even vague interest in food know who they are, what they do and how they started this whole palava about making ‘traditional Neapolitan sourdough pizzas’. For those who do not know about them, their very nice website has it all, from typos (‘Casserta’, ‘pizzaolos’) to videos to photos and names of the producers and cooks and chefs they met in Italy during their pilgrimage. And they met all the right people for sure, from the Caputo family to the mitico Gabriele Bonci in Rome.
They started out selling their food from an Ape van but they were so successful that they are now fully engraved into the Soho social eating space, on a large corner property right opposite one of the most iconic Pizza Express branches. Coincidence? Who knows.
Have they got it right?
|Fun.. over Italy|
For me, a Neapolitan born and bred on the shores of the Golfo di Napoli, a couple of extremely likeable British boys cannot possibly make a Neapolitan pizza with only a few months of traveling up and down the southern end of our peninsula in their bag. For me, what defines a Neapolitan pizza, the real thing, is cultural, historic, part of one’s heritage. It encompasses everything from the hazy summer mornings when Capri is just about seen through the mist, to the packed streets of San Gregorio during Christmas time; from the slow, old, smelly and uncomfortable Metropolitana trains to the long waiting times for the 120 bus that takes me home after school; from the mental traffic on a Sunday evening, when the lights of the cars flicker over the bay, to the up and down rides in the many funicolare we have; from the mild November evenings when you still feel like an ice cream to the brioches eaten for breakfast when I was a kid, from Ciardi on Via Manzoni; from the smelly rubbish everywhere to the graffiti that ruin any worthy building in town; from the rotten fruit picked up in grandma’s garden and thrown down to the square below (oops) to the views from Parco Virgiliano on a beautiful spring morning; from the small pizzette eaten in secrecy after school to the pizza in Piazza San Pasquale surrounded by colourful Neapolitan characters.
Napoli is an essence, and as such, it takes a very long time to absorb and become one with.
|August morning, essence of Napoli from my balcony|
So, call me romantic, call me egotistical, but I am a bit suspicious of anyone who claims to produce something Neapolitan without actually having this essence, whole or in part. I had tried a pizza from the Pilgrims a year ago from their van and found it bland and under cooked. Ok to eat standing in a busy market in London but that was about it. I was not going to rush to eat at their Soho branch but one evening in September with my twitter italian friends (and a couple of non italians too) we spent a fun night eating.. pizza indeed.
Amongst friends, you can’t go wrong. We were given the table-football table downstairs, which, quite uncomfortable for eating (watch out for the stick handles in your tummy) it proved to be hilarious entertainment once the pizzas were gone (Cibbalggina, anyone?).
The place was obviously packed, the music was loud and the menu not that extensive but I guess good enough to choose from. I had a Salame Napoli, not wanting to get too many extra flavours as not to taste the authenticity or otherwise of the pizza.
What can I say? I really do like these guys – they are friendly, they are cute, they are surely hard working and they care for their business. But the pizza? It’s just a central London pizza, much better than its opposite corner rival but definitely not better than some less well known, less marketed pizzerie in London that have more of that Napoli essence for sure.
My pizza was decent but did not have any remarkable flavour, other than the strips of good salame; the dough was too spongey, the tomato sauce too sour. There was no (visible) extra virgin added on top, and the mozzarella was scattered in small bits and not fully melted, I am guessing as the temperature of the oven is not hot enough. It was just ok and fairly forgettable – sorry guys!
Pizza comes also in the form of a dessert, a ring of dough filled with Nutella. We all shared it, and it was fine. I did not have a coffee because it was evening but I trust that being Terrone coffee, is of good quality.
Pizza Pilgrims are doing a fine job of making pizza trendy – so well done on them. As for veraci Neapolitans out there, well you might want to wait to go back home to have a slice!
11 Dean Street
A post on the launch night by my friend Mulia – she takes great pictures!