Italian street pizza by the slice
In A Word
Pizza explorers, pizza elitists, square pizza aesthetes and dyed in the wool Italians
Impulse shoppers and Leadenhall lunchers with an Italian persuasion.
People in ‘power’ suits who, presumably, work in the area (I have seen a lot of these guys in and out of Pizza Rossa in my short time there…)
As far as I can tell, everybody likes pizza. I’ve never met anyone who’s told me that they haven’t. And, if this is true, surely starting a business that sells (square) pizza is a good business plan – right? As long as you can survive the cutthroat world of London’s food and drink scene.
Pizza Rossa’s not actually IN Leadenhall Market, as I discover, searching every alcove and eventually finding it on the corner, by the Whittington Avenue entrance.
I appear in one of those sundrenched afternoons that you get in the few days before the Solstice, not sure of what to expect. Food starts disappearing around 4pm and the place seems to close around 5pm (though at the time of writing this, I am sitting inside at 17:09 and it shows no sign of letting up yet!)
The place is quiet. It plays mid to low volume dance music and unidentifiable rock in the background. All the staff have very strong Italian accents. Who do I speak to, I ask? “You wanna see-a these-a guys!?” Legit.
Two of the three cofounders, Luca and Corrado are sitting at a table on the end, with a few others – doing what I think initially is strategising. Turns out they’re actually chatting with a fellow writer, May Chong of EatCookExplore.com (Hi May!). We end up sitting together, sharing a large meal of pizza slices, Italian style, and the guys explain a little more to us about what makes them (and Pizza Rossa tick)
Their plan seems to be to bring ‘Pizza Al Taglio’ to the UK – this is a different style of pizza to the restaurant style. Not cooked in wood ovens, and not circular in shape, it is prepared in a central kitchen on the day and then brought out to be reheated in small ovens onsite. Corrado tells me that he learned a recipe at culinary school that makes it taste better once it was reheated. I am not sure I believe this is possible, but hey…he’s the guy who went to a school that teaches you about pizza, not me.
Their dough is something else. Something else good. The airbubbles inside it make it lighter (literally and in caloric content) – it is slightly crunchy, not as thin and crunchy as some of the stone baked you may have tried before, but a very unique texture halfway between super thin and the thicker ‘pizza hut’ style. In scientific terms, it has less mass per volume, I think? I am also told that this also lowers the gluten content – which is probably a big thing to a lot of people, though if you ask any coeliac, they’ll tell you that it only takes a little…
The guys are quick to tell us that they’re sticking to doing things the Italian way. This means no pineapple used on the Pizza (“it’s-a good in fruit salad, but never-a on a pizza!”)
And they’re proud of this – Corrado tells us how their first customer complaint came from a guy who didn’t like the dough ‘because it didn’t taste like Pizza Hut’. He took this as a compliment, pumping his fist triumphantly at this first piece of ‘feedback’.
What about their background I wonder? Neither of them come from the food business. Corrado’s a chartered engineer who came up with the idea for Pizza Rossa whilst studying for his MBA in London. Luca, the marketer, is a media guy who earned his stripes in a number of big players, such as Saachi & Saachi and working on TV at Time Warner. Between them, a versatile skillset…surely? There’s also a third cofounder who remains a mystery to me.
I later hear them discussing expansion plans and franchising.
We tried a selection of various pizzas. Prices per slice range from about £2-4 – and I think slices are a little more generous than buying a regular ‘triangle pizza’. It’s probably better value to buy a whole circular pizza, in a restaurant. But these guys aren’t pretending to be a restaurant – this is lunch and takeaway food. If you wanna eat a whole pizza, go get a Pizza Express or something.
What did I think of the food? Well, I’d rate these pizzas quite highly, there’s over 20 different toppings to choose from, and as I mentioned earlier, the dough is something quite different and worth a try…
The downside – the distribution of toppings can be somewhat unequal, each slice is divided into 4 and some of them can end up with lots, where others remain barren, mere pieces of dough with the odd bit of tomato on top (if you’re lucky!) . If you’re sharing, make sure that you get in early on the ample ones. Unless you’re feeling generous :3
We also tried some desserts…
The first were a kind of biscuit that take them shape shape of their pizzas. These were OK, though I wouldn’t say they’re particularly good. There’s a variety of flavours, we got the nutella and jam ones. They’re firmer and crunchier than you expect – unfortunately the nutella is dried/hardened by the cooking process, so you don’t get that unctuous pornographic melting that makes nutella on everything a legit proposition. Never mind.
Then there was some Tiramisu. It’s kinda hard to get Tiramisu wrong and these guys are no exception. It’s texture was magnificently soft and I’m pretty sure it left a crater in my brain. I’m not actually sure if they sell it here of it just materialised from heaven or something but damn.
I like it. The lighter calorie angle has an appeal for the health conscious, dyed in the wool Italians will feel happy with the squareness of the pizza and ingredients involved, and shit…everybody likes pizza don’t they? I hear they’re working on a 5:2 diet friendly version of the pizza and if they can just make one that’s certified gluten free, organic and vegan – well…that’s some world domination shit right there…
Provided I survive the rest of this year, I’ll be watching what happens at Pizza Rossa with great interest. Thanks guys!
A: 4-12 Whittington Avenue EC3V 1AB London, United Kingdom