Pizza – a renaissance on the high street

There is an on-going pizza revolution in my part of the woods. Pizzerias have become ubiquitous with old and new pizza companies on the market. One of our favourite fast foods seem to be going through a renaissance right now with many independent shops on the high streets. This is not hard to believe as you may ask who doesn’t like pizza? No doubt about – it is popular on most of the planet!

I have always liked pizza even when I lived in Trinidad. We had our own pizza companies such as Mario’s Pizza, Pizza Boys and the familiar global brand Pizza Hut. Going out for pizzas was always something to look forward to when I went to the malls with my friend. I remember also trying to make pizza with roti (Indian flatbread) dough as a teenager. On a memorable school trip to Venezuela, we went to a Pizzeria where our tour guide suggested the ‘house special’. It was a delicious pizza with my first taste of one with anchovies and copious amount of other toppings as compared to those I had known in Trinidad at the time. I also remember a very amorous Venezuelan couple in the restaurant who had us giggling throughout the meal.  I have had my share of pineapple and ham pizzas too, and recently heard that the President of Iceland had to clarify his position on these toppings after a social media storm as mentioned in this Guardian article.

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Pizza in a Restaurant in Caserta, Italy.

Fast Forward to London where I have sampled British high street pizzas, and various other independent ones along my way. My husband is Italian and obviously my relatives make fabulous homemade pizzas. My brother-in-law also has an outdoor pizza oven at home and a pop-up pizza business as a ‘hobby’. Our friends own one of the first pizzeria’s in Bedford where they are made in wood-fried ovens, which adds some authenticity to the flavour.

Being married to an Italian, I began to hear and understand the origins of pizza in Italy. Here is a fabulous link on the history of pizza, and it explains the many innovations over the centuries from plain focaccia-like breads to the current form of pizza as we know it. Pizza Margarita was the favourite baked by Raffaele Esposito for Queen Margarita of Savoy as it evoked the colours of the Italian flag – which is topped with seasoned fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil. Buffalo mozzarella is originally from the Campania region of Italy and is the best you will taste anywhere in the world! The buffalo mozzarella is so good…it is served whole as a delicacy, and even the local Italians enjoy and savour it.

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Over the years, I try to make unfussy pizza at home which is simply made with fresh ingredients. I usually plan in advance to get fresh yeast from the supermarket bakery counter. I don’t have a wood-fired oven, but my pizzas are good and usually get positive feedback from family and friends who have tried it. Steady on though…I am not sure I am ready for large-scale pizza making! So I have no ambitions to open my own pizzeria.

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One of my pizzas.

There are pop-ups, restaurants and take-away pizzerias all over the world. The market for pizza is thriving, and there are so many ways that it can become a viable business.  I found that there are several market research reports on this, where in the UK alone – sales for pizza has revenues of £2.7Billion and there was a predictive 9.5% growth in dining-in restaurants. According to Mintel Research figures for 2016, the long term forecasts expects the industry to grow by 34% from 2016 to 2021. It is no wonder that it seems to be one of the most popular types of businesses in the food market,  and in our high streets. This insight from one of Mintel’s analysts states…

“Digital innovation and authentic dishes made from simple and fresh ingredients are transforming pizza and pasta into a destination business, helped by the expansive store presence of leading players. Independent players may be hit by competition from the swelling multitude of new entrants and deli-and-dining formats that are driving more customers into store.” – Trish Caddy, Foodservice Analyst. Mintel.

 

In the last four years, there has been regeneration of the high street in my neighbourhood, which also introduced some new independent Pizzeria players such as:

Nuovo Mondragone – a local independent Italian restaurant who make fabulous pizzas and also great calzones. Their main restaurant is situated in the scenic village area of Walthamstow.

Sodo Pizza Café – a London independent pizza chain who took over the building previously used for a local café (where I used to go dancing sometimes!). The pizzas are good, and I particularly like their use of social media to remind us that they have specials on during throughout the week.

Peppe’s Pop-up – Peppe has been the longest running pizzeria on our high road situated outside the local community CAMRA award winning Rose and Crown Pub. Their pizzas are amazing, and Peppe’s pizza spinning is mindboggling.

Yard Sale Pizza – And the newest pizzeria on the block is this chain in London. I haven’t had time to try it as yet but going by tweets in the neighbourhood…the pizzas look amazing and everyone is excited!

One of my best experiences of pizza dining was at the Pizza Express Jazz Club last year. It was first opened in 1969 by company founder Peter Boizot, and is still grooving strong today. As you would expect, some new and exceptional artists and musicians have played there over the years. I went to see a Motown special (yes I hear you, I know that it was not traditional Jazz!) which was upbeat and fun. The dining is intimate and cosy with dimmed lights, and the ambience as good as a traditional Jazz club.  The added bonus is that they do pizza (which I didn’t have) and the service excellent too. It might be an ideal setting if you are looking for a jazz club experience after the hugely popular film of the moment…La La Land.

I am not the only one excited about pizzas. Earlier this month, National Pizza Day was celebrated highlighting all the new independent restaurants in town, and there is also National Pizza Month celebrated all throughout the month in October in the USA. The pizza vending machine also exists! Seriously, everyone has personal pizza favourites and it really is food fit for us all to enjoy. Pizza sells itself. It will always be around for hundreds of years to come…I hope.

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