A couple of years ago, I found myself in a kitchen in Florence, being taught how to make pizza by a spectacularly passionate Italian.
The perfect pizza, it turns out, requires the very best Italian olive oil, flour, water and just a dash of salt. Oh, and about an hour of kneading, two hours of proving, and some fairly heavy-duty rolling out.
Or you know, you could just head to the High Street and have someone make your pizza for you.
Pizza Express is our pick of the high street pizza chains. It’s comfort food, but freshly cooked, and reasonably priced. It’s also a solid bet for families, with a fab children’s menu and open kitchens that provide free entertainment, with stripy-shirted men throwing around pizza dough. What’s not to love?
Our local branch of Pizza Express is bright and modern, all white walls and marble tables.
It’s a far cry from the Pizza Express on Wardour Street, where we used to go as journalists back in the 90s. We’d take clients for long lunches, and on a good day we’d make lunch (and a bottle of red) stretch all the way until dinner time, when the live jazz kicked in.
But some things haven’t changed. The pizza here is still cooked to order, and there are still dough balls. I pretty much worship Pizza Express dough balls – crispy on the outside, warm on the inside, and sinfully good when dunked into garlic butter. Mmmm….
The Pizza Express Autumn Menu
This autumn there’s a fresh seasonal menu at Pizza Express, and I was invited to try it out. So I took along a friend, and my loose-waisted trousers. Because.. dedication, obviously.
It turns out my friend is not a fan of dough balls. I know, right? I’m not sure why we’re still friends.
Anyway, because I’m a demanding customer, I asked for the trio of dips that come with the shared dough balls for my single portion. Fortunately, the waiter didn’t remark on how obviously greedy I am, and cheerfully bought me little pots of garlic butter (lush), pesto (meh) and tomato & harissa (lush) dip.
Next up, I tested the new autumn pizza on the menu. The Basilicata is inspired by a place in Italy where they eat a lot of lamb, or something. Anyway.
It’s a pizza with spicy meatballs, mint, rocket and cheese on it, is what you need to know. It’s very hot – which is a bonus for me because I LOVE hot food. The base was good and crispy, the tomato and pepper sauce really tasty, and there wasn’t too much cheese.
I’m not 100% sure what the purpose of rocket on a pizza is, but then I’m not sure what the purpose of rocket is in any situation. I secretly wonder if rocket isn’t the universe playing a trick on smug people who will pretend anything tastes good if the Daily Mail tells them it’s a superfood. Anyway, I digress…
Pudding was another new item from the autumn menu. This was a “molten magic” chocolate fondant. Served with vanilla gelato, this is ridiculously rich. As fondants go, it was perfect – a light sponge filled with rich, melted chocolate. For my tastes, it was a little too rich, but if you’re sharing (and/or haven’t just eaten your own weight in dough balls), I’d certainly recommend it.
Are you a Pizza Express fan?
The new autumn menu at Pizza Express is available now. We were provided with a free meal for the purposes of this review. For more information see www.pizzaexpress.com.