What’s so special about pizza? It’s nothing but a bit of dough topped with a handful of ingredients, sometimes even less, then baked in the oven. That’s it. No tricky cooking techniques, no fancy kitchen gadgets… when done right, a good pizza is oh so delicious… and satisfying… and addictive. Its simplicity makes it accessible; it’s food for the people – why else would it be so well known and well loved all over the world?
Italy does them the traditional way, New York has the huge $1 slices, Copenhagen like theirs organic, and there’s even no shortage of hole in the wall pizza vendors in Havana; pizza is everywhere. Here in London, pizza seems to be enjoying a moment in the limelight and as a result there are decent pizza restaurants popping up in every nook and cranny of the city. No complaints from this end because I bloody love pizza.
Just to be difficult, a certain someone is less of a fan. He’ll happily eat the ones I make at home (is there even a choice?), but he would never choose pizza if we were eating out. However as luck would have it for both of us, I can call on some other pizza fanatics to share a slice with… And that’s how I ended up at my first meeting of what we affectionately call Pizza Club. I missed the first outing but I certainly wasn’t going to miss the second, especially as we were meeting at Zia Lucia, one of the newest pizza places in town!
We got the meeting of club officially underway with a round of Aperol spritz, which was the perfect thirst quencher on one of the hottest days of the year, and a platter of delicious nibbles. Traditional Italian cured meats and cheeses to be exact – including two of my current favourites, burrata and taleggio! The accompanying focaccia was unlike the usual thick, greasy slab I’ve come to expect, but was instead airy, crisp and complete with charred spots. It was quite difficult to prise myself away from this selection, but I had to make sure there was room for the main event…
One of Zia Lucia’s unique aspects is their dough – all of it is fermented for 48 hours before it goes anywhere near Dante the wood-fired oven, and it also comes in four different varieties. Intrigued? You can choose from traditional, gluten-free, wholemeal or the one I was most excited to try, the vegetable charcoal. After a lot of discussion, we chose our three pizzas and the bases which we thought would be the perfect match, but take it from me… if the staff suggest some other pairings, go with them. While I’m sure our choices would have been great, the pizzas we actually got were fantastic.
If it wasn’t for Pizza Club, I would never have chosen the La Vegana on wholemeal because the butternut squash cream, fresh tomatoes, asparagus and sundried tomatoes would not have even got a passing glance – no meat I can deal with but no cheese on a pizza? Madness. However it’s the perfect choice for vegans, and once you add a bit of cheese like we did, it’s perfect for anyone after something a little different to a tomato base.
We also tried the Arianna comprising of mozzarella, fresh sausage, taleggio goat cheese, pecorino cheese with truffle honey on the striking vegetable charcoal base. Don’t let the colour of the dough put you off, the smokey taste is subtle yet robust enough to handle the other bold flavours like the truffle and honey. This pizza is intense and luxurious, I really liked it but I was glad to be sharing because with all that richness, I couldn’t have polished it off myself.
The third of our pizzas was definitely the simplest and my favourite – Nduja paired tomato and mozzarella. The nduja (imagine a spreadable salami) was properly spicy, none of this half-hearted bit of heat business, but it does come all the way from Calabria so of course it’s the real deal. It was the pizza which first caught my eye when I was glancing down the menu, and it lived up to expectations.
I can’t really find a single blip in our meal at Zia Lucia; this is pizza done right. The quality of the ingredients they use is obvious and the pride they take in their food, even more so. The team were attentive and efficient, confidently managing the packed dining room and the huge queue that developed throughout the evening. There are no rules about keeping things secret in Pizza Club, in fact… we’re all about sharing all the best spots, though it looks like the secret is already out on Zia Lucia!
Do you love pizza? Where’s your favourite London pizza?
Thanks to Zia Lucia for letting us adjourn Pizza Club at their premises, and Vicky for organising (keep an eye out for future meetings) but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!