Deanna Thomas piles into Liverpool’s proper new pizza place
Pizza has been given a promotion over the past few years; raised from humble, everyday Neapolitan street food, to primary source of PR one-upmanship with a price tag to match.
Dr Oetker can do one with his flat, mean little freezer-to-oven efforts because they bear little resemblance to pizzas in their current guise of leopard-spotted charred crust fairly billowing over the plate.
They advise you to just tear, fold it over and shove it in your cake hole
These days there’s much competition on every high street, mostly from new independents - slowly growing into chains before our very eyes.
Some of them shout about their sourdough crusts left to ferment for days, others focus on special hand-built wood-fired ovens made by Neapolitan craftsman, using specially imported clay bricks in order to reach the same temperatures as the Mars probe.
Others go into infinitesimal detail about the particular flour they use, finely milled in betwixt the knees of nuns native to Naples, or take pride in sourcing mozzarella from milk lovingly massaged out of pedigree water buffalo. In fact, scrap that. Proper pizzas don’t even use mozzarella any more. Now it’s all fior di latte, don’t you know?
Rudy's, the latest proper pizza place to rumble into town, is a certified award winner. It’s been crowned best this, best that. Its doughy disks even made it into Where to Eat Pizza, an international guidebook listing the best pizzas across 48 countries.
The business was born back in 2015, one of the first to take a chance on Ancoats, a then up-and-coming area of Manchester, which has since arrived. The founders decided to take pizza seriously, but not necessarily themselves, in a relaxed, trendy atmosphere. Their success piqued the interest of a couple of investors, resulting in a second Manchester venue and now steadily beyond.
Rudy’s new Castle Street site takes over the former Cau restaurant, its characteristically stripped back, industrial-style décor easily created by simply ripping off all that corrugated white plastic. The huge 120-cover space is seamlessly divided into different areas, all equally conducive to casual dining.
Rudy’s doesn’t take bookings, so just sit where you can when it's busy. Our family of four were meeting up with another family of four, so we plonked ourselves round a big square communal table in the centre. If I was just popping in on my own or meeting a friend, I’d be happy enough perched at the white tiled horseshoe bar at the back.
The menu is pretty simple; listing ten or so pizzas, usually with a couple of additional seasonal specials on the blackboard. It’s still worth taking your time over choosing, especially with a Cynar gin fizz or blood orange mimosa in your hand (both £5.90.)
Rudy’s spiel is basically ‘Neapolitan traditions….dough made daily….24 hour double ferment….only 60 seconds to cook.’ Actually, that last bit is important because apparently they can only fit three pizzas into their singular traditional pizza oven at a time. So, with 120 covers to keep turning over on high days and holidays, less practiced pizzaiolo could be left with a pizza pile up.
Our eight pizzas arrived reasonably close together, but in dribs and drabs, all adding to the relaxed vibe. Staff were smiley, helpful and genuinely enthusiastic, with the confidence you can only have if you know you work in a good restaurant.
We went on the first day it opened and observed the general manager making absolutely sure that nothing left the kitchen without close inspection. He caught a few missed scatterings of rocket and drizzles of olive oil before paying customers did, so must either pass on his skills or never take a day off.
The pizzas? They are really, really good. Portobello (£7.50) comes with huge, thin slices of meaty mushroom, the Calabrese (£8.20) has a warming kick from the undercurrent of spicy nduja melting its way in to the pizza sauce, and the hot/cold Romagnola (£8.90) -topped with thin slices of really well flavoured and smelly-in-a-good-way prosciutto crudo (cured ham), parmesan shavings, fresh rocket leaves and excellent extra virgin olive oil - was superb.
Rudy’s will supply a pizza cutter if you ask (kids who are rarely allowed access to things with a pointy end almost always do) but they advise you to just tear, fold it over and shove it in your cake hole.
Unapologetically, owing to the Neapolitan-style, Rudy’s pizzas can be a bit wet in the middle, although most of the pizzas can be supplied as a ‘white pizza’ if damp is not your sort of thing.
The magic is in those huge crusts, which have a perfectly light and easy chew to them, leaving you feeling satisfied, but not like you need to go and spend the rest of the day lying down in a carb coma.
My son usually eats the centre of pizzas, leaving an inch of beige, which he reassembles into a kind of circular crust jigsaw. A picture of his empty plate, satisfied look and slightly distended belly could have saved me having to write 800 words.
Rudy’s Pizza, 3-7 Castle Street, Liverpool, L2 4SW
Follow @DeannaThomas on Twitter
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. 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.
Romagnola 8, Margherita 8, Portobello 8, Proscuitto cotto 8
Confident because they know it's good
Urban, industrial, modern, comfortable, casual, easy going