Sunday, April 6, 2014

Food Reviewed: Pizza Pilgrims

There is a tragic lack of good pizza in London. I mean, there's an enormous amount of crap pizza but really really good, authentic pizza is surprisingly rare for a massive metropolis. When you consider how many smart burger and ramen places there are it's ridiculous. Pizza is not 'on trend' but how is that possible?? Great pizza is always in fashion. When done properly it is reasonably healthy (more or less - if you don't eat carbs you can leave my house), quick and delicious. It's a smart way to demonstrate skill and high quality ingredients. And, also, it is super delicious. It is the perfect fast food and I should be falling over wonderful pizza purveyors.

But, no, it is all Pizza Express and Domino's and Pizza Hut and I'd rather have no pizza than bad pizza. I am a pizza snob and I can own that. I've been lucky enough to spend an extended period time in Italy over the years and I know that I am due more than hot dog stuffed crust *shudder*. I want a base that is both crisp and chewy, I want to be able to actually see and taste a naturally sweet tomato sauce, I want puddles of stretchy, creamy mozzarella and, yes, I want olive oil and some basil. That is not too much to ask. I have eaten perfect margaritas in Italian city, towns and hill top villages. They are not an impossible dream. Once I was presented with a heart shaped pizza and it was pretty much the highlight of my life. Carb-based seduction is the ultimate seduction.

So for the last two and a half years, between sporadic trips to Italy, I have been surviving on Franco Manca. They're very Italian (service is negligent at best), the pizza is excellently priced and they have an interesting topping selection (not relevant to me but apparently important when dining with non-margarita purists) with great ethics. The pizzas are mostly excellent but for a long time they only had very non-central locations. Brixton was my Franco Manca of choice and I have never lived or worked anywhere that it wasn't a trek from. I have eaten a lot of FM pizza but the locational inconvenience did put a dent in my desired level of pizza eating. You just don't always want to haul arse down to Brixton (or Chiswick!).

Finally there is a viable alternative though! Pizza Pilgrims have opened a bricks and mortar pizzeria in Soho with extensive seating and it is getting an official thumbs up from me. In truth, I was wary of it because I had eaten their pizza back when they were just a wee pizza van (appropriately an apé) and I was not impressed. A mobile pizza oven is just not a smart idea to me - it is too difficult to generate the requisite heat. Pizzas are not demanding food but they need a bit of preparation space and a hot hot oven, 500oC hot with space for the air to circulate, and an apé, as much as I love them, was never going to fit the bill. I remember finding the van pizza decidedly lacking and shedding a solitary tear as I crossed off another potential pizza dream... However, those problems have been remedied by a real cooking set up and the PP pizzas are solid. They seem less prone to slightly under-cooking their pizzas than FM. Both use a sourdough base which is yum but does need a proper cook to prevent it from being gummy around the crusts. I've had gummy crusts (nice) at both PP and FM but it has happened more at FM where the atmosphere is always rushed.

Overall, PP might be the best pizza I've eaten outside of Italy? (Big claim. Would need to revisit that excellent Berlin pizzeria and, sadly, I haven't had an extended opportunity to check out the New York offering which, presumably, aside from the abominable deep pans, are strong. Maybe I should make a pizza pilgrimage to Wales and Glasgow? Strong Italian communities. Any tips?) I've eaten at PP probably five or six times in the last two or three months and it gets my vote. Good pizza, easy access - if you can get there before 7 you don't even have to queue. Plus, it's three minutes walk from Gelupo, my favourite place in the world. N.B. PP do serve Gelupo but it is worth the brief walk for the full range of flavours - the Rhubarb Crumble they've been serving for the last few weeks is top notch.

If you have a London pizza favourite pleeeeeease let me know. I am not a one pizza girl. My fondness for PP doesn't mean I'm going to stop eating FM. Ideally I want to be able to find a great pizzeria within ten minutes walk at all times. The more good pizza the better.


  1. I feel like we need to eat ALL the pizza next time I'm in London

  2. Oh, thank you for sharing your favourite spots! I love pizza so much! x

  3. Since finding out I'm gluten intolerant the thing I have missed most is pizza. Glorious, perfectly rustic, artisan pizza. I'm a pizza snob too (actually more of a food snob in general) and even though I can't eat the real deal anymore I do love going to a good pizza place even if I have to have the slightly more crumbly gluten free version. In London my fave besides good old FM was a place in Shoreditch called Story. They used to be on Redchurch St near A.P.C but I think they have moved after that end of the street was taken over by developers. I ate there many times back when I could, and it was without a doubt the best pizza I've ever had. The dough was exceptional, the toppings all super fresh. It was pricey, but so worth it. I think they have now moved to Bethnal Green Rd (according to Yelp anyway) so might be worth a look?

    If you fancy venturing further afield, and I mean far far far further, you should come to Melbourne! We have one of the strongest Italian communities outside of Italy! There is a whole street that is basically dedicated to pizza restaurants - ones started by Italian immigrants and passed down from generation to generation. We also have some fab gourmet pizza places too - one that does the best dessert pizza ever - think peaches and white chocolate, strawberries, cream and dark chocolate - amazing! Ahhh now I want to go eat a big fat gluteny pizza. Enjoy!!!!