In these volatile times of warming seas, a global pandemic and six-dish menus that change every day, sometimes we just want a bit of certainty.
A meal at Loro di Napoli in Ealing offers two certainties. The first comes from a menu that hasn’t changed in years and that is an experiment in how many dishes you can fit onto a single laminated sheet, including forty four different types of pizza. The second is that you’ll be served the kind of make-this-my-last-meal food your nanna might have made if she was a nonna.
The restaurant is almost hidden from view by an oddly placed tree, and can be found in a neighbourhood of Ealing that many people drive through but very few visit, and yet during two hours on a Friday night I watch staff turn away five or six parties who haven’t sought the certainty of booking ahead.
Part of this, in the interests of full disclosure, is down to the place being so small that the only way to reach the toilets is by walking through the kitchen, a journey facilitated by waiters pressing their spines to the wall so you can side foot past muttering bewildered apologies.
Most of the kitchen is taken up by a domed woodfire oven producing pizza with char to each bite. And it passes one of the tests of good sourdough pizza: the amount of time you have to spend chewing it.
I am dining solo, unless you count the omnipresent Sophia Loren, who played an unfaithful pizza seller in the film after which the restaurant was named, and whose image fills the spaces between football scarves and tinned tomatoes on the walls. Feeling guilty at taking up a table for two, I over-order. As well as my pulcinella I ask for a caprese salad with burrata, and a portion of parmesana, which comes bubbling in a stainless steel dish.
I was making it up when I said the sign of good sourdough pizza is how much you have to chew it, but I’m sure of this: the sign of a good parmesana is it almost feeling like there’s no aubergine in there. It should be hidden, like vegetables in a toddler’s dinner, in a sludge of good things like mozzarella, parmasean and mozzarella.
I tell my waiter I will be needing some takeaway boxes before guilt strikes again.
My rum baba with gelato is spongy, boozy and massive. With the kitchen as small as it is, I ask the waiter if this sweet blessing really is homemade, like the menu claims, and he confesses they were supplied by a company that home makes them, but far bigger lies can be forgiven when they come from a man who offers you a complementary limoncello, particularly after an evening eating some of the most soul-pleasing Italian food London has to offer. 8.5/10