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Quick(ie) bites: Pizza Pilgrims review

I am generally not a Fan of Fast and Furious when it comes to Food- although it makes a nice alliteration. It’s maybe the Southern Italian in me (very well hidden, if my acquaintances are to be trusted, but definitely there), but my idea of eating involves “to have your feet under a table”, a poor English translation of the colorful idiom “mettere i piedi sotto a un tavolo”.

The idea of eating standing, let alone walking, just doesn’t cut it for me. Exceptions are candy floss and possibly gelato, but definitely not lunch, or dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I like street food but I need to sit down. I’d rather sit on the pavement (doesn’t get more “street food than that, right?) or on a bench or wherever. There must be something about getting my bum in touch with a surface, and I feel OK again. To each its own.

That’s why, having heard of Pizza Pigrims some time ago, I still hadn’t managed to try the celebrated “pizza in the Ape”. Berwick market is not too far from my workplace, but I suspected rushing there in my usual 20 minutes wouldn’t have done it justice. It may be a quickie, but it doesn’t mean you can do without all the proper feelings. So the pop- up appearance of the PP guys at the White Horse in Hoxton sounded exactly like the right compromise; still the real deal, the Ape oven and the tent and the low/cost pricing, but indoors and “with your feet under the table”. I brave the cold of yet another windy Friday night and head to a less beaten corner of Shoreditch to find a little gem of a pub (you can find them on Twitter @HoxWhiteHorse) and an unmistakable whiff of yeast and bread coming from the courtyard. It’s indeed a quickie-  I’m very hungry, the menu is short and sweet, and we get down to business quite soon. Order’s in within two minutes of entering.

pizza pilgrims popup

I am so curious to see the Ape and the boys that I go out in the cold to take pictures and, of course, to chat them up.   Wow, they look like they know what they’re doing. Perfect proportion of mozzarella to tomato sauce. The dough looks just right. The basil still smells. My only worry is the oven, which looks tiny indeed and cannot possibly be wood-fired, as it’s encased in the van of the minuscule green pick up.  Will this be a case of “size matters”? I am a bit skeptical on this, so I pass on judgment for now. The guys are very kind, though busy with their pizza. We chat about Italy and I discover they know Abruzzo- my region- quite well (and they-re not just playing it nice for a customer).

pizza pilgrims

My pizza is ready and I go back to my table to tuck in.

F- heaven. Everything is “small but perfectly formed”, the crust (cornicione) is chewy and slightly burnt, the inside is just thin enough not to interfere with the velvety sauce -no “garlic and herbs” nasty stuff-  and the fiordilatte. This is not gooey, greasy pizza: it’s…clean, and intense. Small enough to be folded and eaten in the brown paper it comes in, like in Napoli. It may be suggestion -or the white wine I’ve been drinking on an empty stomach- but I smell the tiniest touch of ash, like in a wood/fire oven. Yet, there is no fire! Our cheerful waiter, who I suspect is a friend of the Pilgrim, explains that it’s a gas oven. Since she’s here, we order the Nutella pizza. In Italy, the thought would make me shiver. Here, I’m in a state of flux where nostalgia, Friday night euphoria and plain gluttony make it a perfectly reasonable choice.

pizza pilgrims london

The sweet concoction of bread and nutty chocolate comes in: oddly shaped, delicious in its mix of salty and creamy. We laugh at the shape and make more “size matters” silly jokes. The pizzaiolo sits down with us for a few minutes and tells us more about the oven and their usual location in Soho. Then tells us they’re off to another spot in Camden for more pizza- making. It’s almost midnight… I am really touched by their determination, as the guys look exhausted but still sound upbeat. Cannot but wish them all the best. So if you fancy a quick one, head to Berwick Street Market and look for the green Ape. There are sexy shops too, for some local color. My advice: have a simple margherita, fold it and eat it. With you bottom on an horizontal surface preferably. It’s a quick, but intense F- experience.

 

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve been eyeing these guys for a while. Like you, I need to sit and eat. It’s part of the ritual I suppose, but I do, vividly, remember eating fresh cooked rectangles of pizza in Salerno, wrapped in brown greaseproof paper, and we had to stand for that, there was no room at all in the tiny shop.

    Worth every lira.

    • Yes, i think you should try the Pilgrims pizza. I really like it, I would not say it is “authentic” Neapolitan pizza- Which does not mean it is not delicious!
      Sounds like the pizza you had in Naples was “pizza al taglio”, which is a different beast from the wood-fired oven one the Pilgrims made. Haven’t heard of any good place for it in London although there are some (Malletti, Datte Foco). I am going to writ a post about this soon so stay tuned

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