A Pilgrimage for Pizza

Sunday evening was a quiet time for Pizza Pilgrims at the Westgate Centre. On first impressions, you can tell that this restaurant would become hectic at busy times, with its open kitchen complete with pizza ovens, and the tables stretching far back into the main space of the room. The waitress led us to a booth with houndstooth-patterned seats that could probably accommodate between four and six people and made for a comfortable setting for our meal. Alternatively, there are tables for two or more with chequered tablecloths which line the opposite side of the room and form a column down the centre.

Choosing what to eat was relatively simple; the menu consists of – you guessed it – pizza, as well as a selection of sides and desserts. As we were perusing the menu, we noticed that the people at the next table were real Italians, speaking Italian and enjoying what must have been authentic Italian food, if they deemed it worthy enough for their visit.

The waitress was knowledgeable about our orders

As we waited for our food – a wait that was long enough to convince us of the pizza’s freshness, but not so long that we got overly hungry – we took in the general atmosphere of the restaurant’s venue. The music was upbeat and relaxed, setting a tone that would suit a chatty meal with friends or family, and the posters around the room added to the retro, diner-themed décor. At the back of the room there are also several arcade games, which look like they’re fully functioning and would be great forms of distraction for bored kids or just to have some fun after your meal.

And then the food arrived. I went for a Calzone Ripieno with Napoli salami, ricotta and mushroom. It was big to say the least, and came with a topping of tomato and fior di latte, which made it look like half of a very thick pizza until you cut into it. The waitress was knowledgeable about our orders and explained that it comes with this topping in true Napoli style, since if you cook a Calzone without anything on top, it will burn if cooked in the type of traditional oven used by the chefs. My colleague chose the Nduja pizza, with spicy Calabrian pork sausage; the verdict was that it wasn’t too spicy, and the portion was a good size to fill you up.

The music was upbeat and relaxed, setting a tone that would suit a chatty meal with friends or family

For sides, we chose the Garlic, Rosemary and Parmesan Flatbread with fior di latte mozzarella, which was clearly on the better end of the spectrum of garlic bread quality. It was like a mini pizza divided into four quarters, and had a lot more variety in flavour compared with your standard garlic bread. We also tried out something from Pizza Pilgrim’s friggitoria menu – ‘friggitoria’ meaning a shop which sells fried food. This was the Carciofi Fritti, which are artichoke hearts, deep-fried and breaded. Having tried the slimy, slightly vinegar-flavoured artichoke hearts that come in jars before, I wasn’t sure what to expect with these. As it turned out, they were kind of like bits of chicken strips, only vegetarian and slightly less chewy. Would recommend.

Pizza restaurants have been widespread for years now, and certainly vary in quality. As it goes, this chain demonstrates a will to replicate authentic Italian pizzas and snacks, which can’t be found at more mainstream restaurants, and generally make the whole experience more interesting – and the pizza tastes better, too.