Early this week I was asked to elaborate on some harsh words I had for another place where I recently had pizza. It was a fair request. If I was going to tear somewhere to shreds, I better had good reason. People going to places I like is one thing, but to not go due of my big mouth is entirely another – there are potential livelihood’s involved, after all. I told the man in question that I thought the pizza’s I had were cynical. That the profit margins involved with bits of topped dough were large enough to not have to scrimp on ingredients. That the burnt ones, like mine were, should have been replaced without question. He told me that I was overly critical, that the pizza’s in this city were generally poor and should not be compared to the likes of those in London. The man in question is an idiot. He is also very wrong.
Step forward Izza Pizza, the latest addition to the Selfridges food hall, concept from the Lasan Group, and new wearer of the finest pizza in Birmingham crown. They understand the simplicity of a good pizza; a hot oven, a dough made from the right type of flour that has been rested for the correct amount of time, and toppings that are so good they could be eaten on their own. We go on the launch night when the pass is handled by Aktar Islam, the cooking half of the duo that run the group. Prosecco greets us, wine is readily topped up throughout the evening. It is the sort of slick event that keeps me in a relationship.
Before the main event we get an antipasti board with chargrilled hulks of bread, fiery strips of roquito pepper, a rainbow of olives, and some roasted vegetables. The veg has been shown a little heat and dressed in quality olive with some fresh basil. It is perfect for its simplicity, from the blistered red peppers to the just-cooked artichoke hearts.
And then the pizza. I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that it is even better than my beloved Franca Manca, who are now going to some serious competition when they saunter into the city later on this year. The dough here is chewy in the right spots, charred on the undercarriage just how it should be. I would have liked a slightly more soupy centre, but that is me really trying hard to find fault. We are given two pizza’s, each halved in toppings so that we have variety to try. A margherita is a testament to the quality tomatoes that make the base, another with goats cheese is balanced out with onions that have been roasted to a gentle sweetness and pine nuts for the bite that the onion has now lost. Taleggio, white onion and black truffle are three ingredients from the same part of Italy – of course that is going to be good. Best of all is the cured meats that coat the dough like fallen leaves, which glisten to the eye and coat the mouth with layers of pork fat. We fight over the last slice, order another and then fight over the last slice once again. I won. But then I always do. We finish on a sweet calzone, the inside of banana, chocolate and Nutella oozing on to the plate as the dough cracks open. It is destined to become an Instagram classic.
I liked this place. I liked it a lot. Sure the real test is not catering for a collective of ego’s at a launch party, but when the shoppers start queueing up on a busy afternoon and the main man is busy elsewhere. But they will be fine. I say that because the hard work is done well before it goes into the oven. It starts with the careful sourcing and moves on the dough, kneaded and then rested. That last minute in the oven is a case of making sure it doesn’t burn. And they have nailed it, maybe more so than they ever have since Lasan first opened. It’s a ready made success, ready to be rolled out elsewhere whenever they want. Izza Pizza is brilliant, and you can take my word on that.
This was a launch party, not a regular service, hence why there is no score. But don’t let that stop you.