Restaurants

Pizza Pilgrims

23/03/2012

Last month I had the pleasure to attend a pre-launch pizza tasting by brothers Thom and James Elliot, a.k.a. the Pizza Pilgrims. Now fully up and running, the pilgrims can be found in Berwick Street Market from Monday to Friday to satisfy your lunch cravings.

The event was hosted at The Endurance on Berwick Street, though the pizza was cooked in a van parked outside, in which the pilgrims have installed a gas oven that heats up to 510°C – meaning it only takes one minute to cook a pizza! The van is a Piaggio Ape they picked up in Calabria and used to travel along the Italian peninsula, visiting producers, tasting typical produce, learning tips and tricks on the way!

Six weeks of Italian pilgrimage which you can re-live through their Youtube videos. They learned about mozzarella and tomatoes in Campania, olive oil in Tuscany, tasted Parma ham and parmesan in Emilia-Romagna, ‘nduja in Calabria and focaccia in Liguria.

After a throughout study on pizza making and ingredients, the pilgrims came back to London ready to put theory into practice! With time, their skills will certainly improve, but the results are already impressive! I’m not a “pizzaiola”, but being Italian I do have experience in eating pizza and I can safely say that their pizza is good!

The key to make a good Neapolitan-style pizza is, of course, in the ingredients. The pilgrims have sourced flour from Molino Caputo, San Marzano tomato sauce from Campania, buffalo mozzarella and fiordilatte from Caserta as well as one from Laverstoke Park. Though the Italian mozzarella was softer and more juicy, the British didn’t disappoint either.

We had the chance to try them all, in what they called a “deconstructed pizza”. ;)

All night, the pizzas kept coming our way, satisfying all the needs of a table of 10 diners. We started with a Margherita cook-off: one made with fiordilatte (mozzarella made from cow milk), the other with buffalo mozzarella (made from the milk of water buffalo). While both were good, the fiordilatte won higher praises across the table, with its richer flavours and thicker texture.

Up next was the classic Marinara: only tomato sauce, garlic and oregano, no mozzarella. While it is a great way to taste the quality of the dough and tomatoes, and the Pizza Pilgrims didn’t fail to impress on that side, I am not a fan of the Marinara: too simple and too salty without the sweetness of the mozzarella.

We also tried the Tronchetto, a “pizza roll” filled with cheese, tomato and ham, and the Pizza ‘Nduja, which was topped with fennel and a Calabrian spicy spreadable sausage.

Dessert was provided in the form of Nutella and Ricotta Pizza. If you are new to the idea of Nutella pizza, then you are really missing out! Pizza dough isn’t very salty, so it marries perfectly with the hazelnut chocolate spread. The pilgrims also added Ricotta cheese in between two layers of pizza. I argued that the ratio “pizza VS Nutella” wasn’t balanced and pending too much on the pizza side, so I suggested to simply spread (a lot of) Nutella over one layer of pizza dough, sprinkle icing sugar and that’s it. Just like a pancake! Not sure they have followed by advise though…must find out!

At the end of the night we were given the opportunity to make pizza ourselves in the Ape van! Chloe of Faerietale Foodie and Michael of Project Pizza tried their hands at kneading and cooking, with (ehm ehm…) decent results!

And here is the result of Chloe’s pizza making: the pizza drastically folded on itself while trying to get it out of the oven!! Not exactly good-looking, but still tasty – proof that the ingredients (and the oven) are really what counts!

What to know more about The Pizza Pilgrims? Read the The London Pizza Blog review here.

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