Best Sourdough Pizza, Ever?
Brighton Food Reviewer – Ami Thornton, August 2015
When I was a little girl, amongst a myriad of ‘when-I-grow-up’ dreams, owning a pizza, gummy bear and Slurpee restaurant ranked pretty high, along with being the bad-ass female version of Indiana Jones and naming colours for crayons. I have to say, I had some interesting aspirations. So when I go out for pizza, I’m hit with a bizarre blizzard of thoughts: vague annoyance that Spielberg allowed Kingdom of The Crystal Skull to happen, that there is probably
some very smug person working for Crayola who is coming up with poetic ways to describe the various shades of
purple and that there are never any gummy bears or Slurpees on any menu at any self-respecting pizza restaurant.
Needless to say, Hove’s hottest pizza joint Morelli Zorelli falls into the latter, but they managed to soothe my crushed childhood fantasies with probably the best sourdough pizza I’ve had in a very long time, if ever? As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure little Ami would have been well happy even without the manic giddiness of a Slurpee brain freeze.
Takeaway or Delivery
Morelli Zorelli mainly runs as a takeaway or delivery service – they’ve got 8 bikes and 5 were already gone on a quiet Wednesday evening – as it operates in a relatively small space. You’ll find prime seating (just two small tables) on the ground floor where you can see the theatrics of the pizza chefs flipping and stretching the homemade sourdough before adding the San Marzano tomato sauce, toppings and firing up the stone and flame oven. There is more seating downstairs, which is a dimly-lit, moody space that seats around 25.
Tight-Knit, Italian Pizzeria Vibe
The restaurant has a homey, tight-knit Italian pizzeria vibe that you can feel when you walk in with the banter amongst staff, a DIY mishmash of brick and tile, black-and-white chequered floors and bursts of shouty red on the tabletops and a neon PIZZA sign, the focal point above the semi-open kitchen. But what really sets it apart from rival pizza joints, according to manager Ken, is the quality of the ingredients – all sourced from Italy and local Sussex farms. “This is what we use, see,” he says in a dangerous mafia-esque tone that almost serves as a warning against any disagreement whatsoever. He saunters over to the fridge and pulls out DOP-approved mozzarella. “This is the good stuff.” I’ve been told.
But it’s plainly clear he genuinely cares about the place.
“Look at these studs,” he says proudly, pointing at a wall of silver studs embedded in perfect straight lines, which vaguely reminds me of what I’d imagine decorates the insides of an S&M club. “I did that myself. Took me two whole days.”
12 Or 20 Inch Pizzas
We decide to sit near the kitchen to watch the pizzas cook and start light with olives and a couple salads – a mixed leaf with sweet balsamic dressing and a Mediterranean salad complete with goats cheese, black olives, red onions and cherry tomatoes to line our bellies for our 12-inch pizzas. But if you’re a part of a larger group or basically a bottomless pit, I urge you to go for the famed 20-incher and try the 8-piece chicken wings, which were pleasingly plump, luxuriously marinated in BBQ sauce and looked and smelled like summer.
Beautifully Cooked – Charred And Chewy
The pizzas we ordered took a bit of time, but it felt like we were along for the ride as we were able to see the chef working behind the counter. I ordered the Florentina (spinach, eggs and olives) and my dining companion went for something more exotic: wild boar prosciutto, smoked pancetta and roasted vine tomatoes. Both pizzas were beautifully cooked, with just the right amount of crunchy charred bits and light chewiness unlike those fashionable, overly worked pizzas which often make me feel like I’m just eating flatbread with wimpy slithers of cheese, shrivelled toppings and a careless smear of tomato sauce which gets written off as ‘artisan’.
Toppings Well Spread
At MZ, I found all the toppings were generously spread out, well-seasoned and the salty savouriness from the sourdough really made all the difference – this is a serious, proper pizza. The only tiny bugbear I had was that I wished the egg on the Florentina had just a bit of creamy yolk to spill instead of it being fully cooked, but I find that is really just personal taste at the end of the day.
The wild boar was wonderfully salty and slightly nutty and the smokiness from the pancetta was really emphasized from cooking in oven so close to flame.
I found myself scanning the menu while I ate, mentally taking notes as to which pizzas I’d try next (FYI: ‘Chill Cream’ a brand new addition, made with fresh double cream, spicy pepperoni, caramelised red onions, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and chilli and the “Vegan Duck’ made with marinated vegan duck in hoisin sauce, spring onions, cucumbers and mushrooms, thanks very much).
Veggie, Vegan And Gluten Free
There are around 19 meaty pizza options as well as quite extensive veggie/vegan and gluten-free options, as any self-aware Brighton establishment would. It’s a shame I’m so far out of Morelli Zorelli’s delivery range, as they’d most definitely be my go-to pizza takeaway of choice but should I crave really good pizza bad enough to leave my house all the way up in hilly Hollingbury on a rainy day, this is the good stuff I’d be after.