A family meal last night: the teenager (birthday and off to Italy tomorrow) chose Pizza Express on Mermaid Key, Cardiff Bay. We dug out a voucher for an offer on Dough Ball starters and Classic pizzas. It fitted the bill.
I ordered the Four Seasons (Quattro Stagioni). This was my favourite pizza when I was a teenager, but I have not had one for years (in fact, I'm not a big pizza fan).
Pizza Express started as a chain in the UK in 1965 and the Classic pizzas are apparently made using the original recipe. A “sampler pizza” when pizza first became popular in the UK, the Four Seasons was once thought sophisticated. Now, in concept it sounds a little dated and off-message (“what, only a quarter of it is fresh and seasonal!”).
Of course, you rightly say, the four quarters are only representative of the four seasons, and this pizza was served in Italy many years before pizza chains became fashionable in the UK. Traditionally, artichoke hearts represent spring, olives summer, mushrooms autumn, and prosciutto or another ham represents winter.
I prefer my pizza crust a little crisper than Pizza Express were serving last night. The ingredients also lacked a little zing or freshness. The pizzas were not bad, but fell a little short of value-for-money, and are certainly not the best you can get down Cardiff Bay. My particular recommendation for pizza is Bar Cwtch, the cellar bar of Jolyon’s Hotel.
The Dough Ball starters at Pizza Express are, in effect, a variation on garlic bread. The more-ish Dough Balls have also recently appeared (minus garlic) with Nutella on the dessert menu.
Pizza Express score with their Dolcetti – mini-portions of sweet dishes to have with coffee. Last time I enjoyed the Caffé Reale (figs, cinnamon, white wine spiced syrup and mascarpone). This time the Semi Freddo Reale (a gelato dessert with marsala and a crust made from nougat and praline) hit the spot alongside a cappuccino.
It will be interesting to hear how our oldest rates the food in Italy compared to Pizza Express.
Pizza Express menu: