Berbere review

Review: Berberè Pizzeria

Review: Berberè Pizzeria

Jenny Booth finds a new Clapham pizza joint that’s bringing a crisp slice of Italy to foggy London

The approach to south London’s latest Italian restaurant is charming. Berberè Pizzeria lies a short stroll down pedestrianised Venn Street, and the strings of lights that deck the olive trees outside twinkle agreeably off its stained glass window panels.

Inside, the decor is minimalist but modish – stripped back, as if to make the food the main attraction. And the food does not disappoint.

Matteo and Salvatore Aloe’s aesthetic for their stylish pizza chain, begun in Italy and now making its first appearance in London, is to offer a pared back menu composed of the finest quality, authentically Italian ingredients. Forget ham, pineapple, sweetcorn or Jalapenos — there are no stuffed crusts here, just rigorous simplicity and classic Italian combinations, which makes Clapham Common with its population of well-heeled 20 and 30-somethings a good choice of location. Recipes pay a nod to UK ingredients, with the sausage in the sausage and fennel pizza sourced from Yorkshire, and Westcombe cheddar in the Four Cheese.

While waiting for dinner to arrive (it wasn’t a long wait) I tasted one of the best negronis I’d had in ages from the admirably succinct drinks list. Wines are restricted to just two reds, two whites, a rose and a Prosecco, all Italian and – if the Nero d’Avola I tried was anything to go by – all bang on in quality.

The cooking at Berberè Pizzeria has a few modern twists. The topping on my delicious aubergine pizza included pesto made with walnuts, plus a smoked ricotta, both harmonising perfectly with tender aubergine. I thought this dish was spectacular value at less than £10, having paid nearly twice as much for inferior pizzas elsewhere.

Star of the show is the sourdough pizza crust, the dough made daily from organic tipo 1, fermented for a day, and smudged in fine polenta before it is crisped in the oven. So lovely is the crust that it features prominently in the starters and puddings as ‘Montanarina’ or large deep-fried dough balls – more on these later. For the main course pizza (and barring a goats cheese and fennel salad, all the mains ARE pizza) the Aloe brothers offer “dippers”, sauces to go with the leftover bits of crust after you have wolfed the savoury filling. I tentatively poked my crust into the ‘Nduja and honey dipper, and the sauce filled my mouth with a rich sweetness that pleasantly fooled my tastebuds into wondering if pudding had come early – somehow without detracting from the savoury flavour. All I can say is, try it. I really liked it.

I dutifully essayed the Montanarina for pudding, and was pleasantly surprised. The pizza crust was deep-fried to a fudgy crispness, encasing a big scoop of vanilla gelato and peanut butter. The contrasts in texture were great, and it was not too sweet, just dusted with icing sugar. the raspberry sorbet was also excellent – full of tart fruit and zingy citrus.

Berberè Pizzeria offers only two choices of coffee: plain espresso or with Grappa, marvellously termed in Italian a caffè corretto. By the time my small, fragrant glass was gone the world indeed felt all correct.

It was a good sign that one of the tables on opening night was occupied by return customers, who had already eaten during the “soft launch” week. Berberè Pizzeria had the bad luck to hold its grand opening the day before Tier 2 restrictions were imposed, but they remain open and with food this tasty and keenly priced they deserve to do well.