Saturday, July 07, 2007

Midsummer night's pizza

After a lively rendition of Midsummer Night's Dream we were all in the need of some quick but decent late night sustenance and headed off towards Pizza Express. I used to frequent their popular establishments quiet regularly, it used to be an occasional TGI Friday lunch treat before the lure of the slimy noodles of Wagamama excluded me from these excursions and many years ago if we were working late in the office we'd often ring up and order a few tasty rounds then go and collect them as they've never lowered themselves to delivery!
I always used to have he same pizza, tuna and mozzarella minus the tomato sauce and then I’d generally find a willing recipient for the one black olive that was always placed in the middle of the pizza. I was quite pleased to see they longer do a tuna pizza and I would be forced to be a little more adventurous. I was hoping they’d adopted the popular pizzeria option of including at least one “pizza bianco” choice for the “tomato dodgers”, perhaps with a crème fraîche base instead but that doesn’t seem to have caught on here. But that didn’t deter me, the menu suggest that “if you want to take their world-renowned recipes and change things, just ask”, so I did. D and I were both drawn to the Campo di Fiori - Artichokes with creamy mozzarella, black olives, fresh parsley and a scattering of onion, named after the Roman market famous for fresh spring artichokes in their new thinner based Pizza Romana range. D was happy to have hers as is but being the high maintenance pizza eater that I am I had to make a few adjustments. Firstly the tomato sauce base was out, I asked if they had a pesto or crème fraîche alternative and our waitress said “no but that they normally whip up a little béchamel instead”. But them bizarrely added that as they had none (being a late Saturday night and all) they’d do something with crème fraîche instead, I know a little odd. Whilst I was asking I also had the onions and olives left off and the inclusion of pancetta.

With the pizzas chosen we thought we’d share a cheese bread, though LLcT didn’t hear the sharing bit and was convinced we were stealing it off his plate, as if we’d do that! Though honestly he let us get away with only the tiniest morsels anyway! Well this thumbnail sized piece of cheese bread had to fortify us for a while because the sudden flux of late night Shakespeare lovers had thrown them and turned Pizza Express into Pizza Distress as LLcT renamed them. We could see the open kitchen, we could see the various plates and glasses being dropped and then cleared away, we could see what we suspected was them making their own meals for the night (and we turned out to be right) but what we couldn’t see was our much awaited pizzas winging their way to us. After an interminable wait they turned up but they were very much worth waiting for.

Despite D and I starting off with the same pizza obviously with my minor alterations (okay, entire rebuild), they seem entirely different, though clearly I think mine looks way better. And I definitely vouch for the perfect combination of a thin Roman base with artichokes, mozzarella, smoky pancetta and of course, crème fraîche. Very good indeed!

D’s had the unasked for extra ingredient of a piece of receipt, hmmm tasty, but she chose to leave that to one side!
It’s been too long since I partook of a Pizza (not so it seems) Express pizza and this was a very good one, though possibly due to my tinkering! So compliments to them and to me for a very fine pizza, and I’m sharing the fork with them this time!

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