The combination of aromatic gin cocktails and mouth-watering sourdough pizzas with botanical wallpaper and hanging cacti ticks all the right boxes at Peckham’s newest Neapolitan pizzeria…
Where? 182 Bellenden Road, Peckham, London, SE15
When? Mon-Fri 17:00-22:30, Sat 12-22:30, Sun 12-21:00
What? The Beautiful Pizza Boy
It’s 9pm on a Thursday evening and, bored of the bitterly cold wind and what seems like hours wandering up and down Peckham Rye, I’m pretty miserable.
Our first choice of restaurant that evening had been Persepolis, the much-loved Persian deli-turned-café raved about by Marina O’Loughlin for The Guardian; our second, The Begging Bowl, a Thai restaurant with four stars on Time Out. But both had queues far too long for our rumbling stomachs. Growing impatient and just as we were about to admit defeat, we spotted The Beautiful Pizza Boy. It’s easy to miss. It could be an urban terrace house, tucked next to a 24-hour newsagents that spills plantains, artichokes and padron peppers into the street.
The interior calmly matches Pantone’s 2017 colour of the year in such a stereotypically hipster manner it’s hard not to laugh. Cacti hang in baskets from the ceiling and the walls are plastered with palm-print patterned wallpaper.
Motown classics lull smoothly over the speakers as our waitress promptly brings two perfectly moreish lemon, Maraschino and Agricola cocktails finished with the company’s own grapefruit, orange and ginger gin. The drinks are so satisfying that we barely notice the couple next to us, squeezed all too close to us on the communal ‘one-size-fits-all’ wooden bench, having an increasingly heated fight about who ate the last piece of garlic bread.
We order and our starters arrive promptly. The lemon and pink peppercorn olives are juicy, plump and salty, with the perfect amount of bite. The polenta cubes are covered in a crispy breadcrumb and served with a tangy and refreshing salsa piccante so good it’s hard not to spoon it straight into your mouth.
Pizza can so often be mediocre- undercooked, overworked or just not right- especially in the urban metropolis that is London. But here, Chef Gino slides his creations from the oven with both pride and his wooden peel. He knows that the warm, gooey buffalo mozzarella oozing over the crisp-yet-soft stone baked sourdough base, and the mouth-watering smell of ripe tomato and fresh basil that hits you before you’ve even tasted your food, really is something else. The ‘Diavola’ is fantastic, with salty, piquant nduja replacing the classic tomato paste that makes so many pizzas bland. Spicy salami, delightfully fresh tomatoes and creamy mozzarella sing joyously in the mouth.
Only later do we discover that the pizzeria is the third child of the team behind Peckham’s much-loved Pedler restaurant and Maltby Street Market’s Little Bird Gin. However, the Beautiful Pizza Boy is fabulous enough to stand on its own merit.
Next time you spend hours trawling the internet for a top restaurant, remember that sometimes the best of places still exist only to be stumbled upon.