Living in London, I have really been amazed with the high quality of Italian food. I have discovered that many Italians actually have a life-long love affair with English culture and have ended up moving to London to live their lives. Fortunately for those of us in London, we now get amazing and authentic Italian food. What also helps is that the UK is so close to Italy, allowing for the fresh Italian ingredients to be easily imported, only of course, if they are not already produced to a high quality here in the UK--thanks again to those Italian expatriates.
Last week an Italian friend of mine, who is only here from Italy on short term (but is already plotting for a way that she can return to live out the rest of her life here) recommended that I try the Neopolitan pizza place, Franco Manca. She said it is the best pizza in London, and one of the best in Italy. How could I turn that down?? So I looked it up and realized that it is even close to where I work. After a week of eating nothing interesting I was highly anticipating the "one of the best pizzas in Italy"...and Franco fulfilled every millimeter of my expectation.
After work, on a yet again cold and blustery, late winter evening, I pulled open the large natural wood and glass door, as I entered into the cozy restaurant from the street. The restaurant was calm with only a few other early diners, but the wood oven was burning warmly, as the pizza makers hurried along shoveling the pies in and out of the hot oven, not letting one cook for more than a few minutes. As I stood there, trying to read the menu I was distracted. Each pizza came out of the oven looking better than the one before. As the owner stood with a glass of wine and talked loudly in Italian to who seemed like his head pizza maker, the smell of fresh olive oil, hot baked bread, and warm melted fresh buffalo mozzarella filled the air. I realized that this is not a dream and needed to order. I decided on the special of the day which was artichoke, pomodorini (cherry tomatoes), buffalo milk mozzarella and parmigiano, and I ordered my pizza for take away.
When it popped out of the hot oven 5 minutes later, I new it was going to be a long ride home. As I walked towards my subway stop, I could smell the deliciousness wafting out of the box, even in the windy cold air. Then as I stood on the subway carriage for 5 stops, riding home, I clamped down harder on my little brown pizza box as if that might help to keep the smell inside... as I was beginning to feel the hungry stares from other passengers- although no one actually bold enough to say anything.
Now, in America, I am sure had there not been about 5 other people on the same subway car with food, someone would have made some comment about the fantastic smell...because that's what Americans do, especially when your all crammed together on the subway.
Regardless, I made it home alive with my pizza still intact, and still warm. With my first bite, it was every bit as amazing as it smelled. The dough was chewy and light. The cheese was creamy and flavorful, while the tomatoes were just warmly toasted. The artichokes were perfectly marinated in olive oil and a few Italian herbs. Simple and delicious.
All you pizza places out there that are just average- you have now become horrible...sorry.