Wednesday 16 October 2019

Review - 'With the star offering unavailable, Pi Pizza is wholly enjoyable - but not life-changing'

Pi Pizza, 10 Castle House, Georges Street, Dublin 2. pipizzas.ie

Fired up: At Pi Pizza, the dough is superb. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Fired up: At Pi Pizza, the dough is superb. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Katy McGuinness

Katy McGuinness

Early on a Wednesday evening, there's a 45-minute wait for a table at Pi Pizza, which doesn't take bookings. The queue is the result of a heated debate that happened online last summer about where the best pizza in Dublin was to be found. Everyone, it seemed, had an opinion. Some argued for Sano, others for Forno 500. Osteria Lucio and Da Mimmo came in for honourable mentions. Nobody was making much of a stand for Domino's or Milano.

These days, every half-decent pizza place has a wood-fired oven brought in from Italy, and the result has been an exponential increase in the quality of the city's pizza offering, but in the end, Pi prevailed in the Great Pizza War of 2018.

And so we loiter, waiting for the text that will tell us that it's time for dinner.

The chef behind Pi is Ballymaloe graduate Reg White, so it's no surprise that the ethos at Pi is one of 'slow fast food'. The dough is made fresh on site each day using fine Caputo Blue '00' flour from Naples - reputedly the world's best. The process takes 72 hours and uses minimal yeast; the result, the menu claims, is a tasty and digestible dough.

People often ask whether we restaurant critics get recognised when we are out 'working'. Sometimes it does happen, but on this occasion the answer is a definite 'no', as we are shown to the worst table in the restaurant, right at the back, opposite the stairs that lead up to the loos.

My son, who's eaten at Pi a few times before, is sanguine. This may be just as well, he says, as the middle section of the restaurant nearest the oven can get pretty steamy. Literally.

There are just eight pizzas on the menu, but the one that I've heard most about - the Funghi, a white (no tomato) pizza with grana padano, spinach, hen of the woods mushrooms, fontina, garlic and sage crema - is regrettably MIA. This is a disappointment.

So it's the Nduja and the Patata for us. The former features crushed tomato, basil, scamorza (akin to a smoked mozzarella), nduja (spicy spreadable salami from Calabria), honey, Parmigiano-Reggiano and garlic. The dough is excellent, crisp on the outside, chewy within, nicely tangy, beautifully charred and blistered from the raging heat of the oven, with the distinctive flavour of wood fire. The topping is over-sweet, though, and lacking in spice. My son says that is different to the version that he had here before, which had more heat; he reckons that it has been dumbed down in the intervening period.

The flavours of the Patata - a white pizza with grana padano, potato, scamorza, black pudding, caramelised onion, pickled shallots and garlic - are well balanced, with the pickled shallots cutting through the sweetness of the onion.

But although there's some provenance information on the menu - mozzarella and fior di latte from Toons Bridge Dairy, and chorizo from Gubbeen - there's no mention of the origin of the black pudding. Again, the dough is superb and the dipping sauces - basil aioli and roast garlic - that Pi suggests ordering to make the most of the crust are a winner.

We finish with a shared dessert - one of two on offer - of chocolate budino, a pot of not-so-dark chocolate goo topped with Maldon sea-salt, that is perfectly pleasant. Nobody at the other tables appears to have ordered dessert and, really, after all that pizza, it is unnecessary.

So, the Neapolitan-style pizza at Pi is wholly enjoyable, and the leopard-spotted dough delicious, but I'd stop short of saying that it's life-changing. If you don't fancy the queue, you can make pizzas at home with the excellent Irish-made Pizza da Piero bases and whatever toppings you fancy, but you'll miss the wood-fired dimension.

Our bill for two, with a couple of glasses of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and a soft drink, comes to €51.60 before service.

THE RATING

8/10 food

8/10 ambience

8/10 value

24/30

ON A BUDGET

The Marinara pizza - crushed tomato, garlic, oregano, extra virgin olive oil - costs €8.

ON A BLOW OUT

Two people sharing one Funghi and one Salsiccia pizza, with dipping sauces and desserts, would run up a bill of €41.50 before drinks or service.

THE HIGH POINT

Exemplary crust.

THE LOW POINT

Getting the worst table in the house. On the plus side, there was no fear that we'd been rumbled.

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