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Grabbing more than a pizza the action
9:50am Friday 27th April 2012 in Eating Out
THIS will not come as a surprise to anyone who has seen my portly frame (or watched me wheeze my way up a flight of stairs) but I have had quite a few pizzas in my 27 years.
These have ranged from frozen supermarket offerings to grease-laden, cheese-smothered pizza shop purchases which turn the cardboard box they come in see-through.
So whenever I go to an Italian restaurant, where I am invariably confronted by a menu of pizzas, pastas or pretentious-sounding specials, my gut instinct is to always try something new and exotic, while my gut just tells me to fuel it with crispy dough covered in a tomato sauce, melted dairy product and a selection of meats.
And my penchant for pizza won through once again when we visited Viva, the newest restaurant in Crook, a town already well equipped with takeaway pizza and kebab shops, several fish and chipperies, continental takeaways and a host of hairdressers.
When my meat feast pizza arrived, Viva vindicated me in my choice to stick with the norm.
It fulfilled my first criteria for pizza, namely that it was big.
The crust was thin and crisp around the edge, more moist and soft where it was touched by the rich tomato sauce and plentiful scattering of cheese.
When eating pizzas from a plate with cutlery, rather than from a box with my greasy fingers, I like to start from the outside and work my way in.
I will eat the outer crust first and save the best bits, those most covered, for last.
And it was testament to the quality of Viva’s generous topping proportion that right from the outset, I was eating flavoursome pieces rather than simply crust.
The toppings came right to the edge of the pizza and the meats, consisting of ham, bolognese and salami, were thin and taste-laden.
My partner Stacey opted for a calzone stuffed with mushrooms and bolognese sauce and I am pleased to say that, as she was rather less hungry than I, she did the thing which I think is the prime reason for any man entering a relationship with the fairer sex: she left some of it.
Having wolfed down my pizza I then had the joy of finishing off hers (having removed all the large, juicy, but ultimately my most loathed foodstuff mushrooms).
The crust was crisp on top but sloppy on the bottom where it was covered with the sauce, and although I am yet to fulfil that lifelong dream generated by a childhood spent watching Football Italia on Saturday mornings’ Channel 4 of visiting Italy, this to me tasted like an authentic Mediterranean meal.
We had started with a big bowl full of mussels, lavishly swimming in a buttery garlic and white wine sauce served with mounds of crusty bread, which to me resembled the yellowy bread given to Frodo and Samwise by the elves to keep them sustained in their quest in The Lord Of the Rings.
Many of the mussels had come apart from their shells which made it disappointing when we picked up a shell and, expecting there to be a juicy morsel inside found it barren, but was quite pleasurable when the aforementioned missing mussel was found bathing in the lake of white sauce at the end.
To drink I opted for the compulsory beer of all Italian restaurants, a Peroni, while Stacey, our motorist for the evening, plumped for a chilled diet coke, served with ice and a lemon.
The restaurant on Church Street in the centre of Crook, which sits across the road from the town’s picturesque cenotaph and St Catherine’s Church, has only been open a few months but since the outset it has been well spoken of.
Inside it is classily decorated, the tables are not too close together and the walls are adorned with pictures of Italy, with one feature wall featuring a silver and black wall paper which is both elegant and eye-catching.
We went in at about 5pm on a Saturday and it was quiet, although the reserved tables around us, including one set out for 10 people, promised the staff a busy night ahead.
We did not avail ourselves of a dessert as, after my pizza followed by remnants of calzone, I was far too full to contemplate taking in more treats, so we asked for the bill, always a tense and unpleasant moment in any eating out experience. I was delighted therefore to be presented with a piece of paper informing me that I only owed £25.10, a pauper’s price for a princely pizza.
Viva la revolving pizza.