There has been many rags to riches stories for hip food stall owners who have become restauranteurs writing their own cookbooks and having their own business. Thom and James Elliott are perhaps one of the most well-known ones. A few years ago, they decided to leave their office jobs and go on a pilgrimage through Southern Italy learning the art of making classic Neapolitan pizzas.
Their Piaggio Ape van with a maximum speed of 35MPH which they used on their pilgrimage can still be seen on Berwick Street in Soho during lunchtime Tuesday to Friday. However, their main focus nowadays are on their restaurants, Pizza Pilgrims and we visited their first branch on Dean Street in Soho recently to discover first hand what the fuss is all about.
Their green and white design is hard to miss. Upstairs it’s set up for speedy takeaways, whilst downstairs it’s a cosy environment decorated with a smattering of Italian touches from the print of their famous van to classic Italian film posters like La Dolce Vita. The guests tended to be as hip as the owners and mostly in the 20’s-30’s age range with the restaurant’s background music matching the clientele.
There is a great variety in their choice of pizzas from the classic if rather plain margherita to the more complex and elegant Portobello mushroom and truffle option. We went all out and opted for their guest pizza which was “Give bees a chance”: a margherita with cobble lane beef heart, pork belly pepperoni served with Mikes hot honey all the way from New York City. To top it off we added buffalo mozzarella and black pepper salami. It’s indulgent, it’s exemplary, the taste is as flavoursomely fulfilling as you are likely to find outside of Italy. My only mild concern was the rather dough heavy nature of the crust; well if you like crispy crusts of Roman-style pizzas, this might not be the place for you. However, the dough did have that fresh out of the oven chewy taste that any pizza lover would appreciate.
I would recommend a portion of Berwick Street market green salad to help lower those cholesterol levels after devouring one of the Elliott brother’s marvellous creations. For those who like to end their meal with a sweet taste, you can’t go wrong with their vanilla ice cream served with virgin olive oil and sea salt. It is supplied by Soho gelateria, Gelupo and confirming once again, when it comes to ice cream, nobody does it better than the Italians.
I might not be a fan of Neapolitan pizzas but it’s easy to see why Pizza Pilgrim has been such a roaring success. Maybe it’s time to buy their cookbook and find out the secret of their success.