The story of two brothers living the dream, from quitting their jobs to opening their own pizzeria
Founded by the Elliot brothers, the Pizza Pilgrims story began with them quitting their jobs, buying a Piaggio van called “Conchetta” and spending several months driving (slowly) around southern Italy studying the art of pizza-making. Once they returned, they fitted Conchetta with a a gas-fired oven and started their business in Berwick Street Market.
After instant acclaim they published a recipe book and opened a two floor restaurant on Dean Street in Soho. The oven and takeaway area is upstairs, while the rustic, cosy basement is filled with retro Italian film and beer posters and tables covered in wipe-clean green and white checked tablecloths giving a very 60’s feel to the place. The pizzas themselves are a chewy, soft Neapolitan style with thick bases layered with trendy toppings.
I had a meeting near Covent Garden one evening and met Antonia in Soho after she finished work. We’d been meaning to check out Pizza Pilgrims for a while but had always been distracted by other restaurants en route. However, we’d just stopped a no wheat, no carb diet detox so pizza was back on the menu.
There were plenty of people standing around upstairs as we approached so we assuming, as this is Soho, there would be a long, tedious wait for a table. Luckily there was space and we were shown downstairs by the incredibly lovely staff. Each one of them was friendly and seemed to genuinely be loving their work – the service couldn’t have been better.
The menu is split it to sections such as ‘Pizza’ ‘With Pizza’ and ‘After Pizza’, which gives you no illusions about what the focus is here! There were ten pizzas on the menu including a guest pizza, which changes regularly. None of the pizzas have particularly complex toppings – the Salsiccia e Friarielli, bianca base, fresh fennel sausage, wild brocolli, ﬁor di latte, parmesan, basil & olive oil (£11) is probably as busy as it gets. Less is more at Pizza Pilgrims and the quality of simple ingredients is the key to their offering. Sides include one of my favourite salads, Panzanella (£5) and Buffalo mozzarella with oven roasted pepperonata (£6).
We decided to keep it simple with a Margherita (£8) for Antonia and the Nduja (£9), which was a Margherita with topped with Nduja sausage. We also ordered a Berwick Street Market Salad (£3) on the side. Much to our delight Pizza Pilgrims have Birra Moretti on draught for £4.50 per 400ml glass, which took us straight back to our week in Tuscany last year.
All pizzas are prepped and cooked by hand on a traditional paddle. Ours were well cooked with a crisp crust and base but definitely could have been cooked longer to make the cheese lovely and stringy and I could have done with more cheese and basil. Nduja is a very crumbly sausage so don’t expect chunks of it to get your teeth in to. It looked and tasted more like chilli oil than anything else, but tasty nonetheless and the level of heat was just right.
Our pizzas at Pizza Pilgrims were decent but not up to the level I was expecting and had heard so much about. I’m not sure whether ours were just a bit undercooked or if that’s how they always are. I rather hope it’s the former as I’m keen to go back and give them another shot.
Aside from the food, I loved the atmosphere in the restaurant. It’s busy and exciting upstairs with pizzas being cooked in front of your eyes and cosy and warm in the basement restaurant. A great place to come as a group and spend some time eating good, simple food and drinking as much Moretti as you can handle.