Something New Under The Pizza Sun

Brickoven Milano has landed in Chiswick, discovers Liz Vercoe


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I went to Italy for dinner the other night. I loved the change of atmosphere: the friendly waiter from Salerno, the noisy hub bub of Italian chatter in a tiled and sleek room, with ultra modern furniture and eye-catching light fittings like giant triangular poached eggs. The atmosphere was that typical Italian cross of autostrade ristorante and uber-cool city-centre winebar. Of course we ate pizza, straight from the oven.

Oh, wait a minute, it was in Chiswick. The Brickoven Milano, which has several successful idiosyncratic pizza and steakhouse restaurants in Milan, has boldly plopped down in the giant space that was once Frankie’s. And I was invited to try their pizza (possibly my pizza-addict reputation has travelled before me). I was joined by my husband and 19-year-old son so we could compare notes as we have completely different pizza preferences.

There are 46 pizzas on offer but what was immediately apparent was that alongside the “traditional Pizzas” list, including 4 Stagioni, prosciutto e funghi (my favourite but I decided to explore further) and Siciliana etc, was a very long list of “Pizzas with Cold Meats”. This it turned out is one of the key signatures of Brickoven Milan. Rather than roasting and toasting the meat on top of the pizza so all the flavours intermingle and the fat runs, they serve the salami, pancetta, parma ham, separately to be placed lovingly on top of your bubbling pizza when it is served. This has many plusses and the odd minus.

I’d opted for Pizza Molisana from the “Pizzas with Buffalo Mozzarella” list promising tomato, regular and Buffalo mozzarella, scarmorza (smoked cheese) and pancetta (£12). I was slightly unnerved (the minus) when what resembled wafer-thin uncooked streaky bacon was delicately placed across my pizza. Meanwhile my son was served with a cheeseless (which he prefers but rarely finds in the UK) tomato, anchovies, olives and hot chilli pizza called Alice (£11) and my husband a “Classic Brickoven Pizza” called Texana (£11.50) that was topped with tomato, mozzarella, jalapenos, kidney beans, sausage and chilli. They don’t go in for little chilli symbols but this would have had three, red ones. A mixed side salad with a fresh vinaigrette dressing was a cooling addition at £3.50.

By the time I looked back at my pizza, the panacetta magically looked perfectly “cooked”, pink and transluscent. Panic over, especially once I tasted a mouthful. The flavor was light and smokey and simply delicious with the creamy cheesy background. The buffalo mozzarella adds a smooth texture and flavor when compared with, say, the simple mozzarella on my husband’s chilli fest.

“Here we only want to use the finest meats” (presumably that applies to their grill menu too offering steaks and fish £20-£26), said our man from Salerno. “We don’t use pepperoni, it’s not Italian, only salami. And cooking in the oven spoils the flavor, you can’t taste.”

What’s more, excess oregano had stayed in its pot on all three pizzas. I know nothing shouts Italian cooking more than oregano but sometimes it’s so raucous you can’t taste anything else.

But what about that other key pizza ingredient, the crust? The Brickoven’s signature pizzas, shaped like a kayak and served on wooden boards, are made with a yeast-free dough. Thin, crispy at the edges and a welcome complement to the riches of the toppings, this is a supreme pizza base.

Most pizza bases are a version of bread dough, made with yeast, so they rise. But yeast can also give you a bloated feeling and some people have an intolerance to yeast. As a helping hand to other allergy sufferers, the menu is also marked up for milk, egg and flour intolerances, and even has two flour-free pasta dishes.

The Brickoven’s “house red” was a Nero d’Avola Shiraz Il Pardosso 2011 from Sicily at a reasonable £15 but curiously the only Italian red. This was full-flavoured, 13%, and a good match for the cheese. There’s a sister white Chardonnay also £15.

From the desserts we had fruity strawberry sorbet, £5 for three scoops and, initially out of curiosity, a chef special dessert of “Liquorice scented panacotta topped with espresso” £6. In all honesty I was cynical, but what an inspired combination of flavours that turned out to be. Which just left time, since Italians are famously picky about their coffee, for a shot of Hausbrandt HH espresso, £1.20.

When we arrived we’d had a choice of eating in the intimate and elegant “lounge room”, all black, cream and taupe, and ideal for a tête à tête or whatever that is in Italian. But there was more action (including a party of Italian students) in the main room so that’s where we headed. But it’s a big room and that needs a good crowd. You can’t always guarantee the Italian students.

Still, a family friendly touch is a brilliantly fitted out playroom in sight of both rooms where small children can escape from the table. It’s a smart move in this versatile restaurant.

Our three pizzas, salad, two desserts and coffees and a bottle of house wine came to £66.40, plus discretionary £6.64 10% service.

Brickoven Milano, 66 High Road, Chiswick W4 1SY

Reservations (020) 8994 5834 Open 9am -11pm

March 15, 2013

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