My wife went back to work last month and instead of shipping our eight-month-old daughter “Z” (Zee) off to military school (aka an expensive nursery), we decided I’d stop working full-time and take care of her. Eventually, squeezing in a bit of freelance work on the side – to pay for burgers and beer. So far, I’ve kept our day trips pretty local; Clissold Park. Church Street. Angel. Camden. Blighty Coffee. But last week I decided to step things up a bit. Baby steps. I also woke up with a Michelangelo-sized craving for pizza (exacerbated by my morning Instagram foodporn intake)…
On a whim, I decide to head to Pizza Pilgrims in Soho. Scary thought, at first. What if I had to change her in public. But the thought of swapping Finsbury Park for Soho – and my dough-eyed lust for pizza – was more than enough to yank me out of my comfort zone.
I get off at Oxford Circus and head down Oxford Street towards Soho. Everyone’s either French or Italian. And if not they’re in a MAJOR hurry. Oxford Street people don’t care if you’re carrying a baby, they’ll walk straight through you. I pass Lush’s Oxford Street megastore and before I know it, Z and I are sniffing bath bombs and looking for a till. She really seems to get a kick out of the natural smells, bright lights and colours.
I leave Lush and turn into Dean street. Rounding the corner I dodge a sickly smelling human vape cloud and get a whiff of pizza – there’s a Pizza Express across the road from Pizza Pilgrims.
Italian pizza makers are the only people who can pull off Crocs, but even then
Interestingly, an Italian friend of mine once told me that Italian food’s all about the elegant combination and balance of simple, delicate flavours – so no burger-stuffed crusts or liquid cheese-filled bases then. And, aiming to bring a “slice of Naples to London,” that’s Pizza Pilgrims to a tee; Hand-stretched bases made while you wait, covered in a few basic, high-quality ingredients and bunged in a wood-fired clay oven for about five minutes.
I order the Nduja, with margherita and Calabrian pork sausage. And for a second, the sunshine tempts me with a Brixton pale ale. Instantly, however, something tells me that might be frowned upon, so I order a water and lick my lips instead.
A few minutes later and we’re sitting in Soho Square Gardens, mingling with tightly dressed office folk unwrapping Pret sandwich boxes and ignoring each other. We chase off a gang of Soho pigeons and set up camp.
These guys aren’t like regular pigeons. It’s a bit like an episode of Goodfeathers. They clear off, at first, but then they start to creep back, eyeing us out without trepidation. “Funny how?” Z’s completely fascinated by them and laughs uncontrollably. Meanwhile I break out her snacks and get stuck into my pizza, which is a far cry from Domino’s and Pizza Hut’s symmetrically placed wall-to-wall toppings and thick coats of cheese.
To round things off we head past Crosstown Doughnuts on our way home – it’s about five minutes walk from the park. And to be honest, if I’d thought of it I would have stopped at Crosstown first and gone all in.
Ordering’s easy. A Peanut Butter Berry. Crosstown’s handmade take on peanut butter and jelly; a square sourdough base topped with a peanut butter glaze, blackcurrant compote and toasted peanuts. I get a flat white and head home, sipping my coffee – with a lid, which I’ve learned to live with – doughnut safely stowed for later.