Richard Miller gets personal with pure pizza at Saltaire's newest joint
While we were all sodding about with sourdough and banging out banana bread, Simon Towers was spending his lockdown far more productively.
Each day he’d fire up his Ooni pizza oven - a 30th birthday present received just before all The Stuff happened - and get down to bready business with his lovingly tended disks of dough.
There is talk of lengthy pre-ferments and of hand-stretching. Pizza boffins will heartily approve.
As well as keeping the inhabitants of Towers HQ in a steady supply of pizza, these meditative windows of proving, kneading and perfecting helped to bring a semblance of sanity to those very strange times. The making and eating of pizza being far more fun than a Joe Wicks workout, for sure.
The astute landlord of a local pub was paying attention. Monitoring Towers’ progress on Instagram, he mused that regulars might enjoy some Neapolitan pie action alongside a few cold beers. An invitation to launch a pop-up was extended and duly accepted. The name would be Il Pirata Pizzata, which loosely translates as the Pirate Pizza Party.
Wordcount stipulations compel me to shunt this story forward by a year or so. But guess what? It turns out that Towers was pretty good at this pizza malarkey. The pop-ups were a success and, subsequently, a bricks and mortar embodiment of Il Pirata Pizzata has landed in Saltaire.
Dreams, as Gabrielle memorably warbled, can come true.
Follow your nose to the unit on the main road with the inviting fragrance of toast and yeast and fancy Italian cheese. Thank me afterwards.
We start with a Margherita (£10) because we’re hip and autentico. Its blackened crust blooms and bubbles, speaking of a dough that has first been vigorously pummelled and then put to bed for a long doze, which does sound appealing. Its thin coating of tomato sauce is vibrant and the pools of melting mozzarella plentiful. Simple pleasures indeed.
The menu mentions something called Petra flour and namechecks the renowned mill from which it is sourced. There is talk of lengthy pre-ferments and of hand-stretching. Pizza boffins will heartily approve.
I’m no boffin but I used to be a ninja around the Pizza Hut salad bar, and I know that purists can get a bit jittery when pizzaiolos start arsing about and being creative with toppings. Here the options are diverting rather than daft.
In addition to the thinly sliced rounds of chilli-flecked pork you’d normally expect to find scattered hither and thither, this Diavola (£13) comes tarted-up with a couple of new-fangled extras. Candied jalapenos bring a welcome honeyed sweetness to a robust and fiery salsiccia.
When I ask what the rust-hued hair-like strands are, our waitress – in a warm display of pure hospitality – fetches the packet, informs me that they’re dried red chillies and asks if I’d like any more chucking on. It’s the little things, isn’t it?
Outside it's pishing down but the Marco (£13) brings with it a distant memory of crisp spring sunshine. Lemon zest and prosciutto blend in with a base of pistachio cream, and more of the crushed nuts come sprinkled on top. Spritzy, salty and crunchy, it’s as fresh and as lively as the perky décor, which is all pastel pinks, mellow yellows and bold geometric wall-prints.
The space is compact but doesn’t feel it. There are plans to offer more seats upstairs in the future. I’m a big fan of the neon bog.
Wine is a recent addition to the booze selection and glasses of juicy Montepulciano or cool Trebbiano (both £4.50) are both sound and safe pizza accompaniments. Gulps of La Bassa Pilsner (£5) will cleanse the palate nicely.
For now the food menu is pure pizza. Sure, it’d be nice to have a bowl of bitter salad leaves on the side, or to end with a scoop or two of gelato, but these are early days and Towers is gallantly juggling this place alongside the day job. You can’t blame him for taking things a step at a time.
Those lockdowns may now be a thing of the past but stick on the news and on various fronts things still seem a little iffy. I’m not suggesting that pizza can change the world, but a visit to Il Pirata Pizzata will make things seem a lot less glum.
Il Pirata Pizzata 91 Bingley Road, Saltaire, BD18 4SB
Follow Richard on Twitter @eatingthenorth
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Margherita 8, Diavola 9, Marco 9
Smiley, warm and rapid
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