Pizza in these parts has taken a significant turn for the better since last I sank my teeth, quite happily, into a Piz’za-za pie. So I wondered, as I headed to this 17-year-old Hull institution after an eight-year gap, if my fondness for its flatbreads would remain constant.
I suppose it was The Grand on York Street, which started our local, thin-crust, wood-fired pizza passion. Others have arrived since with their big fancy fires and stash of fresh herbs, notably Tennessy Willems and, most recently, Back Lane Café, and for those who favour this style of upmarket pizza over the thick and gloppy, after-the-game variety, there are now options.
One thing that is constant about Piz’za-za is its popularity. It doesn’t accept reservations, and you can almost always expect a wait. So we do just that, and I don’t know if it was the waiting that made the pizza taste so fine, or if the pizza truly remains a find. I only know that, notwithstanding the lack of wood-burning smokiness, these pies have wonderful crust appeal and an intelligence about their toppings that makes them continue to stand out. Besides, the wine list is superb, the salads have a real French flair with gutsy vinaigrettes, and the house lemon tart on its own is still reason to come.
All the famous pizzas are here, including the sacred trio of tomato, mozzarella and … oregano? Piz’za-za breaks the rule a bit, replacing the usual fresh basil with oregano, but still, this pie is a simple pleasure. Less simple, but also good, the pizza with moist chunks of smoked chicken (from the Boucanerie Chelsea Smokehouse) and with buttery cooked-down leeks, tomato and Emmental cheese.
Don’t overlook the daily specials. They represent good value. One night, we start with a light but very satisfying vegetable soup, followed with a rich pizza spread not with a tomato base, but a béchamel sauce, garlic, mushrooms, arugula and olives.
At my last visit I noticed, in tiny font at the bottom of the menu “Les Extras” and in a Puttanesca sort of mood, order a Calabrese pizza with extra punch – that other famous trio of anchovies, capers and olives.
I don’t suggest you desert the pizzas in favour of the pasta dishes. Granted, I’ve tried only one (there are four on offer) but the linguine with shrimp was weakened not with a lack of solid content, but because the noodles were dry, and lacked seasoning. The spiked oil on the table helped, as did the saltiness of fresh Parmesan.
Panna cotta with a strawberry coulis and preserved peaches and the house lemon tart were both excellent.
In addition to the solid wine list and the help available to navigate it, there’s a good selection of craft beer from Montreal, and the delicious Mystique apple cider from Hemmingford, Que.