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Summering at PizzaExpress

Pizza is something I take very seriously. Thin crust, hand-tossed with a perfectly balanced tomato sauce base, topped with stringy mozzarella, fresh basil and spicy pepperoni is just heaven on a plate! I hate the fast-food re-heated frozen pizzas with their doughy, pasty bases and not enough toppings. When done right, even a plain cheese pizza can blow your mind. I’d eaten at PizzaExpressa chain of Italian eateries founded by Peter Boizot in Great Britain in 1965, now with a global reach – before, and had been quite impressed with their pizza, so when I was invited for a tasting of their new Summer Menu, I was looking forward to it.

In keeping with the summer theme, there was also a list of refreshing Mocktails and Cocktails on the new menu. I chose the Ginger Mint & Mojito – Bacardi rum, Sprite, lime, mint and of course, fresh ginger – a delicious concoction served up in a glass jar, it was a relief from the sweltering Bombay heat. My dinner companion ordered a Bombay Gin & Tonic, also from the same menu

Served along with the drinks, was the Intro Platter – a mix of salted cashew nuts, salted almonds and BBQ sauce coated broad beans as well as some mildly sweet peppadews which were stuffed with a blend of goat’s cheese and portobello mushrooms. I wasn’t expecting much from this, but I really enjoyed those crunchy BBQ broad beans and their contrast against the more soft, sweet and creamy flavour of the stuffed peppadews.

The highlight of the Summer Menu are their signature Romana Pizzas – with a base ‘inspired by pizza in Italy’ – there was a choice of two non-vegetarian pizzas and one vegetarian (Margherita Bufala). Our server suggested we go half-and-half on the pizza, with equal parts of the American Hottest (also on their regular menu, BTW) and the Pollo Coriander Pesto.

The American Hottest is my idea of an ideal pizza – pepperoni, jalapenos, fresh red chili, spicy and soft N’duja sausage, passata and buffalo mozzarella, baked and then topped with more fresh mozzarella, torn parsley and a chili oil.

The Pollo Coriander Pesto is the kind of pizza I would not usually choose, but the pleasant, earthy flavours from the coriander pesto sauce, with chicken tikka bits, mozzarella, onion rings, green chili, olive oil, baked and finished with a drizzle of more coriander pesto weren’t bad. It’s just not my kind of dish, because I simply hate chicken in pastas or pizzas and it was obviously an Indian twist on the traditional Basil Pesto, but was a nice idea.

Next up were the pastas – a simple Spaghetti Aglio e Olio and a Pollo Alforno. You can’t go wrong with an Aglio e Olio – crispy garlic flakes, chili and olive oil make this a simple and satisfying pasta dish (with the addition of a little parmesan).

The Pollo Al Forno on the other hand, could have worked beautifully if it was seasoned better. A large serving (even for two people), this lasagne was layered with a chicken bolognese sauce, arrabiata sauce, bechamel sauce and emilgrana. There was much promise in the ingredients but unfortunately, the flavours fell a little bit flat. Nothing really stood out, but the crispiness of the cheese and the well-cooked pasta were redeeming qualities.

Like struggling to finish the last leg of a race, we struggled but managed to find room in our stomachs for dessert. The only one on the Summer Menu, was a Platter of Cheesecake, Chocolate Fudge Cake and Tiramisu. I particularly enjoyed the frosting on the Chocolate Fudge Cake; the Tiramisu was lovely and light mascarpone, with that bittersweet edge from the sponge soaked in coffee liquor; and the Cheesecake was good, but nothing to write home about.

PizzaExpress have stuck to the basics with their Summer Menu – keeping it short and sweet, I think that makes it easier than having a barrage of dishes to choose from. I was actually surprised not to find any salads on the menu, seeing as summer is the best time to keep it fresh with a lighter option than pizza and pasta. It was a satisfying meal overall, but they could have done much more with it.

We dined at the PizzaExpress in Colaba, but the Summer Menu is available at all their outlets. I love their comfy booth-style seating and the service is pleasant and friendly. Make a reservation if you intend to dine there at night, like we did.

Happy Eating!

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