Unlike many dishes, there is some universal acceptance of what makes a good pizza. You cannot go wrong with a thin chewy base and fresh toppings. Burnt edges are frowned upon and melted mozzarella that stretches as you pulled away each slice is stuff that dreams are made of.
As a kid, there wasn't any choice when it comes to pizzas. In fact, there was only one. Back then, Pizza Hut is the only pizza restaurant in town. Brought up on a diet of home cooked food and hawker fare, a trip to there was a treat. Mum used to dangle the carrot - "if you do your homework, we'll go down to Pizza Hut later". Till this day, I still have a soft spot for it (for those who are interested, check out Pizza Hut voucher code).
I categorise pizzas into three main groups - firm based (think Pizza Hut), ultra thin or even crispy based (Story Deli comes to mind) and the chewy based (Saponara and pretty much most of London's decent pizzerias).
La Bella Vita clearly belongs to the last. This pasta and pizza restaurant in the heart of Broadway Market is almost always packed even with the weekly food market going on outside. It is easy to fall in love with this pizzeria; a cut out side of a Fiat hangs on a wall and lively music plays in the background; the restaurant feels almost like a sanctuary from the bustling street outside despite being seperated only by a thin sheath of glass.
The menu seems to go on forever. We're talking about a list of 22 starters, just under 30 pasta, carne and pesca with the pizzas list of around the same length. La Bella Vita is of course not the only pizzeria having a never ending menu.
That need to offer something for everyone comes at an expense of the taste. Unlike pizzas that pretty much uses the same base and a variation of toppings, the rest of the dishes can be vastly different. For instance, the squid used in calamari fritti can probably be used in risotto ai frutti di mare but that is about it. If either dish is not popular, the poor squid is going to languish in the corner of the fridge for quite some time.
I found out the hard way. While my calamari fritti (£7.95) looks somewhat presentable (unlike that at Dolcetto), the taste was hardly inspiring. The squid is either overcooked or has been dead for quite awhile. I hope it is the latter otherwise the kitchen would have done the squid a grave injustice. My molars have a time grinding down the chunks. I swear I feel my enamel wearing off. Instead of aioli, which can possibly improve things a bit, we have tartar sauce.
The pizza fares way better. My Napoli (£7.85) comes with capers and olives evenly interspersed on a thin layer of mozzarella. The anchovies are meshed instead of being embedded whole, which I actually prefer. And the edge is so thin, it's almost missing, another plus. I can never figure why people would put up with the thick bland dough of some pizzas' edge.
You'd be spoilt for choice along Broadway Market when it comes to food. But if you crave for some good o' non fuss pizza, La Bella Vita is the one for you. While the service isn't overly warm, it is at least proficient. Just stick to its pizzas and you'll be fine. Bringing your toddler along? No worries, La Bella Vita offers a kids' menu too.
View Larger Map
Len Deighton: Making Food Sexy
9 hours ago