Restaurant review: Pizza Boutique, Nonnas, Pizza on the Square, Belfast Woodfired Pizza and Little Wing
Pizzerias abound in every corner of Northern Ireland but it takes a sure hand, trained staff and the right equipment to get the fast food right
Is pizza the north's favourite food? Judging by the number of mobile, takeaway, sit-down, posh and punky pizzerias around our towns and cities, probably. Yet of the 50 (and counting) pizza places in Belfast alone, very few are any good.
This is because many quick-buck, fast food entrepreneurs go into the pizza business in the belief that two well-trained cats and a dog with clean paws can churn out the stuff in industrial quantities and make a load of money.
But these attempts are quickly caught out because nothing is more obvious than a poorly-executed pizza. You also need well-trained staff, the right ovens, and a dough on which you can stake your reputation. Pizzability appears to be something that's easily achieved but it is deceptively tricky and bad pizzas are too common.
Take Domino's, a favourite in our house during the teenage years. Even the plain margarita is too greasy for me and that weird dust at the bottom of the base doesn't help. Pizza Hut and its wacky cheese-stuffed crust is acceptable until you reach the age of five and then there's Chubby Cherub's surprising disaster (surprising because the risotto is so good in there) which features a pizza with no crust.
Conversely, there are pizza places that don't have to try hard because they're catering for a late-night crowd.
Little Italy at the back of the Crown Bar could get away with serving cat food on cream crackers yet their pizza is a magnificent example with nicely textured, blackened and uneven crust, excellent, un-sugary tomato paste and decent cheese.
Today we want to kick off 2020 with five reliably consistent offers in the north. These include Pizza Boutique, Nonnas in Derry City, Pizza on the Square in Belfast, Belfast Woodfired Pizza and Little Wing.
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Pizza Boutique, 188 Saintfield Road, Belfast BT8 6NN, tel: 028 9508 8924
Pizza Boutique has gone from strength to strength after being nearly wiped out by the Primark fire. The fire closed down traffic and footfall to the city centre Pizza Boutique was reduced to a trickle. Fortunately for us, two others opened on the Saintfield Road in south Belfast and in Hillsborough. Neilly's chef credentials mean his pizzas adhere to a quality code where the dough is thin, crispy and well textured. Then he adds oddly well-matched toppings including Tuscan lamb, piri piri prawns and beef brisket.
Nonnas, 119 Spencer Road, Londonderry BT47 6AE, tel: 028 7131 3400
Nonnas wood fired pizzas are a cut above and reflect Derry/Londonderry's ambition to become a regional foodie capital. So far it is succeeding in this bid and Nonnas has played a role in this with its artisanal approach. Options include zucca (creamed butternut squash base with spicy sausage, ricotta and crispy sage), Carrick Ban goats cheese and red onion on a bianca base and a vegan pizza featuring oven roasted peppers, fresh chillis and fresh red onion.
Pizza on the Square, 1 Donegall Square West, Belfast. tel: 028 9032 9473
This is the newest kid on the block and stands proudly on Donegall Square West overlooking the ground of the City Hall. More importantly, the pizzas are classic, generous, well made and even the gluten free one is perfectly edible. Artisanale unevenness is always reassuring in a pizza and the flavour of the scorched pizza base and crust are a welcome balance to the lush pepperoni, and other flavours.
Belfast Woodfired Pizza, 699 Lisburn Road, Belfast. Tel: 028 9091 4903
This has been consistent for the last four or five years. Apart from a minor blip last year, it manages to offer that pizza shack experience beloved of hipsters and their parents. Their base is a sourdough-like affair which consistently provides a crunchy yet moist texture and plenty of hold. Their attention to local produce is exemplary and expect to see quality ham and cheese from here.
Little Wing, 201 Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 3JD tel: 028 9065 1555
Little Wing makes the biggest pizza in Ireland. Get past this and look at the quality. Their skinny pizza takes a leaf out of PizzaExpress' book in which the Romana is replicated, ultra-thin and crispy.
Very good quality ingredients include authentic Italian prosciutto, nduja sausage and much more.