There is a lot of truth in the old cliche that ‘food brings people together’. Without food being involved, it is likely that I would never see half of my friends, nor would I have met half of the new ones I have made in London. Any food usually works, but I think it is the most familiar and comforting ones that do the ‘bringing together’ the best. My proof is in the pizza. I can think of nothing else that would bring four food-loving, photograph-taking, blog-writing ladies together more enthusiastically or religiously than the simple pleasure of a good pizza. Meeting for pizza has become such a ritual, we turned it into a club and happily hold our meetings anywhere a decent slice is served.
Our latest meeting took us all a little out of our ways (these are the extreme lengths we go to for Pizza Club) to a cosy corner of Fulham which has been transformed into a slice of the Italian south. Meridionale, which literally translates to mean ‘from the South’, aims to showcase the best of the Southern regions such as Naples, Sicily, Calabria and Sardinia so we were excited to discover some new dishes or curious tweaks to well-know favourites. But first, we had to pop the prosecco to adjourn the meeting… we don’t have too many rules at Pizza Club however that is definitely one of them!
While we mulled over the menu, we nibbled on plump Sicilian olives (swiftly becoming some of my favourites as they’re not at all pungent and overpowering) and seaweed doughballs. I had to do a double take when Enzo, Meridionale’s affable owner, brought them to the table… seaweed? doughballs? I’ve only had the (dis)pleasure of trying the famous Pizza Express ones once, but I can confidently say that these are much better. There was something strangely addictive about their chewy texture and natural saltiness; I would order these again but ditch sweet chilli sauce which seemed like an odd pairing for it anyway.
Two dishes from Meridionale’s menu which immediately caught our attention were the panzerotto, a deep fried mini pizza stuffed tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella, and the parmigiana di Melanzane, a baked aubergine layered with tomato and more delicious mozzarella. I knew I would love the panzeretto because quite frankly, is there a soul out there who isn’t salivating at the thought of fried pizza dough with hot cheese oozing out of it? If you’re nodding your head, then shame on you… I’m not sure we can be friends. The aubergine however, I was more apprehensive about. It’s one of those vegetables I’ve convinced myself that I hate, yet each time it is forced upon me in situations like this, I find myself digging in for seconds!
Pizzas are name of the game for this club but we went rogue and threw a pasta into the mix too. This does not happen often, however we knew that Meridionale make their own pasta, and our curiosity was pique by mention of the scialatielli, a variety that none of us had heard of. Hailing from the Amalfi Coast, scialatielli looks like fettucine but has a much denser, chewier texture somewhat akin to thick Chinese noodles. Those who like their pasta thin and al dente will find definitely find these strange, but personally I adored the whole dish, especially as the fat strands soaked up plenty of flavour from the pancetta, leeks and Sicilian tomatoes they had been tossed around the pan with.
Our pizzas made quite an entrance; all three because of their beautifully puffed and charred crusts (I could happily just eat crusts like these) and one in particular for the distinctive truffle aroma penetrating all our senses! The aptly named Burrata Zucchine e Tartufo Nero was laden with just those things and more – there was mozzarella, parmesan and ricotta, but also courgettes and enough black truffle to knock you out if you weren’t careful. While we loved the luxury of having three types of cheeses and truffle, this was definitely one for sharing… there can be too much of a good thing.
The Bufala topped with buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, parmesan and basil delivered on flavour and familiarity, proving that simplicity really does win when it comes to pizza. Another classic, the Calabrese topped with spianata calabrese, mozzarella, parmesan and chilli also went down a treat. While the hints of heat were pleasant enough, half of our Pizza Club are chilli fiends so we just had to add a drizzle of chilli oil which really made this combination sing! We attacked each pizza with the level of gusto befitting Pizza Club, but I am a little ashamed to say that we couldn’t polish everything off… mainly because the pizza and pastas are generous enough to be fit for any large Italian family, but also because we needed some space for dessert.
Around our table there were a few slices of lemon tart, one very photogenic affogato, and one very sizeable slab of tiramisu. So big, the prospect of tackling it seemed daunting but all it took was one mouthful and I was in heaven! The layers were perfect, the balance just right… and all the while, it was light as a feather – definitely one of the best renditions I’ve ever tried. When I think of food that brings people together, I think of food like this… from the pizzas to the pasta to the desserts, Meridionale made us feel like we were dining as family, not as customers and I couldn’t have thought of a better place to gather for my last Pizza Club in a while… see you later ladies, I cannot wait until the next time we share a slice!
There might be an opening in Pizza Club membership now that I won’t be able to attend meetings for a while… feel free to read all about our other meetings and submit your interest…
Thanks to Meridionale for hosting our latest Pizza Club meeting, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!
Pin It For Later?