We join the Pizza Pilgrims for a tasting evening, as they open a new street-food venture in Soho’s Berwick Street Market
London’s growing love of street food has been well-documented over the last few years, with on-the-hoof outlets cropping up throughout the city wherever there are hungry workers to feed. Success stories such as Meat Liquor (formerly Meat Wagon) and Pitt Cue Co. have even managed to translate their menus to permanent premises, but up until now, street pizza has remained elusive.
Enter brothers Thom and James Elliot, the self-proclaimed Pizza Pilgrims, who will be serving authentic Neapolitan pizza from their trusty three-wheeler in Soho’s Berwick Street Market, starting this Monday. “We’d been following the street food movement for some time,” explains James, “and being pizza fans, we couldn’t believe that no one had given ‘street pizza’ a go.” Spotting a gap in the market, they decided to address the issue themselves.
However, the boys weren’t about to head into matters half-cocked, and decided to spend six months travelling around Italy (the “pilgrimage” from which they take their name) picking up pizza-making tips from some of the country’s finest pizzaoili. As a pair of pizza enthusiasts, the journey was something of a dream come true, arming them with a wealth of culinary knowhow, albeit at some cost to their waistlines…
“We managed 28 pizzas in five days in Naples,” laughs James. “It’s the only real place to get proper pizza. There is a road in Naples called Via Tribunale where you’ll find the five greatest pizzerias in the city. You can essentially keep walking up and down until it’s time for the next meal!”
It will be these authentically Neapolitan flavours that Soho’s lucky punters will be wrapping their tastebuds around, with the Pilgrims importing many of their raw ingredients from the region. Their flour comes from Molino Caputo, a famed Naples mill, while the San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the foothills of Mount Vesuvius itself. Mozzarella is sourced from noted Water Buffalo region Casserta, although the boys are also experimenting with a British variety from Hampshire’s Laverstoke Park.
It’s not just the ingredients that have made the long journey from the mother country. The brothers also drove their Piaggio Ape van (lovingly named ‘Concetta’) all the way back from Italy, before installing a 450 C gas-burning oven capable of cooking three pizzas at any one time. “Some people are a bit snooty about gas ovens,” says James, “but in Italy they say the only important thing is to have a naked flame to ‘scorch’ the pizza. It’s electric ovens that are the devil!”
We were lucky enough to be invited along to a tasting evening held by the boys in a Soho pub, and after sampling the individual ingredients, were treated to the finished article. The dough was among the best we’ve ever tasted, pleasantly salty and yielding an excellent texture in both crust and base. Toppings were of a similarly high quality, with a fiery N’Duja sausage boasting a rich, robust flavour good enough to eat on its own.
The boys will be serving their wares in traditional Neapolitan style, folded over into a kind of fan shape for ease of eating on the go. Also worth looking out for are their ingenious sweet pizzas, a rolled Nutella and Ricotta offering proving dangerously moreish.
This coming week sees the van officially launched, so if you find yourself in the Berwick Street area on Monday, leave your sandwiches at home and help yourself to a slice of genuine, Italian pizza. We’ve a feeling you won’t be disappointed.
Berwick Street Market,