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Rossopomodoro Hoxton Square – Italians do it better (pizza & Olympics)

If you are shivering at the thought of a pizza chain (because Rossopomodoro Hoxton IS part of a mini-chain)…look away now! Otherwise, give a chain a chance and be surprised…

Italy is doing OK on the London 2012 Olympics – nothing comparable to the gold rush of Team GB of course, but we’ve got a dozen medals so far. To celebrate (any excuse really) I allowed myself an escapade from a weekend of work (erm..) and intense Olympics-watching to nearby Hoxton Square to try out a newly opened pizza place from a chain i knew from my Italian days: Rossopomodoro. 

britney spears looks

Oooops, I did it again. But don’t imagine (?) me dancing around in skimpy American college- style clothes and pigtails.  Apparently, Britney has a penchant for cookie dough ice cream and hot dogs, whilst my weakness is pizza. Don’t get me wrong, I am a believer in carbs (stay away from me stinky-breath kidney-killer Dukan diet!) but I am aware that a 12” doughy base loaded with cheese and toppings is not exactly healthy. But from time to time, you know, sod that. And when I get pizza cravings, there’s no frozen nor delivery pizza to curb them. What I really need is the whole experience- sitting down in a room warmed up by a giant wood-fired oven, smelling the grilled bruschetta bread, perusing the menu looking for the best combination between decadence (I like my toppings) and balance (meat-feast-olives-jalapenos-gorgonzola-eggs is not my thing).

Problem is, I dwell in the East- actually, in the epicenter of hipster cool which is Hoxton, where sleek Oriental food and “concept” eateries abound, but not humble pizzerias. I knew there was a pizzeria place close to Hoxton Square, just in front of the Breakfast Club, under the name of “Furnace” (really?!)- but the façade was uninspiring and the fact that it was always deserted didn’t bode any good. I had to either give in to Waitrose pizza or head far, far away to sublime but far Santa Maria Pizza or rustic, no-frills Pappagone.

The sad – looking Furnace closed down at some point and I didn’t even notice. I saw refurbishment works starting straight after- not surprisingly for such a prime location- and I dreaded another club opening (= more drunken noisy people keeping me awake on a Tuesday night). I was happy to discover that the place was being transformed into a pizzeria- a Rossopomodoro one. I was glad to see a pizzeria opening so close to me as one doesn’t not always feel like going to the opposite side of town for a decent slice- but wondered how they would do on such a competitive restaurants spot, where locals are easily dismissive to anything having a “chain” feeling.

rossopomodoro pizza london

Rossopomodoro are one of the largest chains in Italy (with 180+ branches, according to their website) and with time I learnt not to snub them as they provide consistently good, if not amazing, pizza and some  delicacies which may be hard to find in smaller cities like buffalo dairy (mozzarella, ricotta, yoghurt etc.). Much of their produce features the “Slow Food presidia” or I.G.P (a certification awarded to regional certified specialties) and the menu offers something for everyone- even those less keen on carbs than me.

So, when pizza cravings hit me last time, I headed to Rossopomodoro with a friend to test it out. The interior is airy, with big glass doors opening to create a “patio” feeling if you seat next to the entrance, but pleasantly warm with touches of rustic wood and live plants. It’s clear they aimed at blending in the area vibe without trying too hard.

The welcome was extremely friendly, with a young waiter REALLY zealous in explaining the menu and advising on starters. I actually prefer having a bit of time to look by myself, but his smile and enthusiasm was infectious. And when I asked if they had spritz and he said yes…well, that made my night. More on my love for spritz is coming soon- but it’s enough to say it was a suitable Italian start to a very Italian experience.

We had prosciutto, olives and bruschetta for nibbles with our drink (very generous portion) and ordered starters too, tempted by the yummy sound of scamorzina (scamorza is a dried, often smoked mozzarella) wrapped in bacon and courgette and ricotta balls. The latter were very good and crispy (although the pest dip was unnecessary, probably just a nod to the British obsession for putting pesto everywhere but where it should be); the scamorza was tiny for 6 pounds, but tasty and chewy and probably just the right amount not to spoil your appetite before pizza.

pizza-and-calzone-at-rossopomodoro-and-the-staff

 

I went to spy the kitchen in action. Although this branch is newly opened and they’re still limbering up, it all looked to be running smoothly- for what my poor pictures show, the team is really doing its best. There was just one pizzaiolo that night instead of the usual two (so I was told) but he was working hard churning out pizzas and ours were quickly to arrive.

A pizza and a calzone to share proved to be an ambitious eat after the starters- the calzone was huge, with just the right amount of charred dough on top, the pizza good-sized, with the right crust- to- base ratio and not too wet on the center (although a certain amount of liquid stuff is to be expected with fresh mozzarella di bufala). It was surprisingly good- the tomato sauce tasty and thanks god without herbs or garlic, the mozzarella just as good as you would expect it being flown from Italy and the calzone filled generously with delicious buffalo ricotta and salami (not pepperoni!).

The dough has a good bite but tasted just a tiny bit too…doughy for me (but my friend loved it so I might be just a bit of a dough- freak).  I left a bit afraid of feeling bloated the day after, pizza (Y)East-style, but none of that happened and even after this massive dinner we felt cheerful, pleasantly full and ready for more adventures- you need to burn off those carbs in some way anyway….Pretty much what an Italian-style dinner should be.  We’re really not a bunch of fussy eaters and food critics- the staple of our dolce vita social life is “pizza & birra”- where that means much more than eating, it stands for simplicity and convivial atmosphere over gourmet food experiences. And *hear, hear* I am not the only one to think this chain deserves a chance (you can read the London Foodie review here).

I’ll be back at Rossopomodoro Hoxton when pizza cravings hit again, and wish the guys best of luck- as succeeding as a chain in this area must require some hard work but they seem definitely on the right track to deliver a no- fuss, uncomplicated but satisfying dinner experience to the London crowds.

Do you have any suggestions for “good chains”, in London or elsewhere? Let me know in the comments
Square Meal

 

P.S. I was a guest of the management on my first visit- but I have been back many many times on my own after that 

Summary
Reviewer
Serena Mariani
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Rossopomodoro Pizzeria, Hoxton- London
Author Rating
3
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