Much interest abounds in the almost limitless options that exist for topping a pizza. Sauces, meats, fish, vegetables, fruits and savouries blend with cheese, tomatoes and other traditional ingredients to create recipes restricted only by the confines of one’s imagination. Whether you are holidaying in Sicily or resident amongst the large Italian community in the hectic, fast-moving major cities of the USA, there is something somewhere to satisfy every taste.
But it is not only the toppings that are available in a range of different varieties. The base itself is an important and integral part of the overall pizza experience and how the taste is brought out can often depend upon the consistency, texture and density of that that lies beneath.
The traditional Italian pizza is baked on a flat, round bread. However in Sicily the crust is usually thicker, and the American variant is square in shape.
Thicker still is the pan or deep pan pizza that has become popular in the United Kingdom. Some restaurants have travelled beyond this concept in recent years and actually stuff the outer rim of the crust with cheese.
For some however a thinner crust is preferred as a means of bringing out and emphasising the flavour of the topping. The thin crust option is popular in New York, where the slices tend to be rolled out in a way that leaves them not only flat but also wide. This option is usually made with high gluten flour and the slices are sometimes folded over before eating.
In Greek cuisine the emphasis is on producing a based that is enriched with herbs, complimenting well the natural flavours of the topping.
Pizza can also be produced on French bread, and this option is often used by bakeries and delicatessens which sell the product by the slice as a snack rather than as a complete meal.
One way of creating a special and unique flavour is to cook the base in a wood-fired brick oven. Brick oven pizzas are usually fairly small in diameter and have the advantage of cooking relatively quickly, always helpful when a high turnover is required.
At the popular Eco Restaurant in Clapham Common much attention is paid to the base of the pizza, ensuring that a healthy product is always delivered that has the effect both of emphasising the flavour of the delicious toppings and of producing a nutritiously balanced meal. It is an attractive option for those who wish to protect the waistline whilst at the same time satisfying a discerning palette and a hefty appetite.
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be a pizza delivery boy for one of the takeaway chains?
The writer is a bit long in the tooth to be contemplating embarking upon a new career, but it does rather come across as one of those occupations that may one day have a “Confessions Of….” film produced in its honour.
Imagine. The telephone call comes through and someone somewhere feels the calling of a Spicy Hot One with extra mushrooms, a bottle of coke and a portion of garlic bread with mozzarella. The meal is cooked and your job is to get it, as warm as possible, to an address on the other side of town. The moped is primed and ready, the food is safely in the box, and you are ready to go.
The stresses and strains of negotiating heavy traffic always have the potential to assert themselves, even if the busiest time for pizza deliveries does fall well outside the rush hour.
Then, when you arrive at your point of call, you need to check the address. Hopefully it is the correct one – misunderstandings often happen over telephone, especially if the customer and the person taking the order speak different languages.
Hopefully, too, the person who answers the door did actually order the pizza. Mischief makers and people wishing to settle scores are an occupational hazard in the takeaway pizza business.
On the other hand, the customer could be a beautiful young lady…
The highly popular Eco Restaurant Clapham though operates according to a slightly different principle. It too organises deliveries, but as a luxurious eat-in premises the focus of this service is on large orders with ample prior notice given. The larger part of its operation caters for visiting customers who will relax and eat an unhurried meal, made from fresh, healthy ingredients on a light, nutritious base.
At this top Clapham pizza house an extensive range of toppings is available, from the traditional to the original and imaginative, with ingredients and flavours skilfully blended to create an unforgettable taste and then served either on a flat or folded base.
Without a doubt it is worth getting on your bike for.
For the purists there are only two “real” types of pizza, the margherita and the marinara.
But it is to the credit of this wonderful culinary invention that so many countries and peoples around the world have sought to create their own versions, and the options for doing so are all but limitless.
Toppings range from the practical, through the maybe obvious to the downright weird and wacky. In India one might have anticipated the native cuisine finding its way onto the traditional pizza base, resulting in a delicious offering of tandoori chicken and succulent paneer upon a flatbread pizza base. The kosher pizza in Israel meets an obvious cultural demand, the Brazilian banana pizza possibly a little less so.
The Malaysian Tom Yom pizza sounds intriguing to say the least; bulgogi and dak galbi do not strike one as being amongst the more obvious choices of toppings, unless one is Korean, and emu, kangaroo and crocodile toppings are not generally on offer unless down under.
But when all is said and done pizza is an Italian creation and Italians, even when domiciled in some far off land, will always be the ones to show the rest of us how it is done.
So it was perhaps unsurprising that the not insignificant Italian community in the United States would emerge to create its own variations upon the native dish, and nowhere is this more evident than in the addition of pepperoni as an ingredient now commonly associated with pizza throughout the world.
Although the origins of the word “pepperoni” lie with the cayenne pepper plant, it is now universally associated with a highly seasoned, hard-textured sausage made from cured pork or beef. The delightfully chewy, juicy morsel, sometimes spiced for extra flavour, is one of the most popular pizza toppings available today.
At Eco’s Clapham pizza restaurant one can enjoy an American Hot, a delightful pepperoni salami dish which combines wonderfully with mozzarella, tomato sauce, garlic and olive oil to create an Italian-American experience to savour.
Eating out can be a spontaneous decision or a carefully planned event.
When the aroma of melting mozzarella wafts out from the door of the pizzeria and you haven’t eaten for hours it is understandable that you might be tempted to take a look inside to see whether there is an empty table.
Sometimes there will be. At other times it might be too busy. Maybe the only table remaining is somewhere you really don’t want to be sitting.
Or else there may be no seats but you are next in the queue. The group at Table 7 are staring at empty dessert dishes and chatting. You hope and assume that they will leave soon but then, after fifteen minutes of doing what seemed to be very little, perhaps even opening and closing their wallets, they order another coffee.
This is why is so often a good idea to reserve a table. The manager of the establishment knows you will be coming and the table you have reserved awaits you when you arrive. Being aware of your imminent arrival will have given him or her a better opportunity to assess how busy things will be at that time, and how many staff need to be deployed. All in all the whole thing is more organised, more civilised, and you and your party are less likely to end up huddled around a table that is too small, or sharing one with the Battersbys.
At Eco Restaurant, reckoned by many to be the finest of those restaurants close to the Clapham Picture House, you can use the handy online booking form provided on the restaurant’s own website to select not only a time, but also the seat of your choice provided it has not already been reserved.
Your meal is an important and integral part of your evening out. Don’t leave anything to chance, reserve your table and enjoy some truly excellent food in a relaxing and pleasant environment at the Eco Restaurant Clapham.
There is something about the humble pizza that brings out the exhibitionist in a certain kind of person.
Probably amongst the zaniest of all the adventures to befall the world-renowned Italian dish is the clamour to produce the largest pizza ever. That is a pizza even bigger than the previous largest pizza ever.
Let’s get the all-important facts and figures over with. The largest pizza ever made was 121 feet in diameter, and was constructed by Norwood Hypermarket in South Africa back in 1990. Its ingredients included a massive 4,500 kilograms of flour. A previous effort in 1987 was built in Havana, Florida before more than 30,000 spectators, who between them devoured it after it had been cut into no fewer than 94,248 slices.
In the United States approximately one hundred acres of pizza are consumed each day, or about 350 slices per second.
There are around 61,300 pizzerias in the USA and 10,000 in the United Kingdom. Each man, woman and child in America eats on average 46 slices of pizza every year.
Annually over five billion pizzas are sold around the world. A recent Gallup Poll found that children between the ages of 3 to 11 prefer pizza to all other types of food.
And last but certainly not least, how many people know that October is National Pizza Month? Designated as such for the first time, in 1987 – by the US Congress no less (allegedly) – the occasion is particularly celebrated in the States where families take their children out for pizza meals and have even been known to indulge a little themselves!
Meanwhile at home, normality abounds. Eco Restaurant may be the finest pizza restaurant in Clapham Common, but it doesn’t have seating for 30,000 and none of its famously nutritious pizzas come anywhere close to being 141 feet across.
Nevertheless as “proper” pizzas go ours are the healthiest and tastiest for miles around.
When you come to appreciate just how good our pizzas truly are statistics, records and dedicated pizza months really are not that important at all.
Where do you go to get a bandstand? The Clapham Common bandstand looks an awful lot like a pair of bandstands that once stood in South Kensington Gardens… and there’s a good reason for that.
When South Kensington Gardens closed in the 1870s, its two bandstands were sold to Peckham Rye and Southwark Park – which already had a bandstand, so that one was uprooted and sent to Plumstead. And in the 1890s, when Clapham Common wanted a bandstand of its own, they decided to copy the South Kensington design.
Then came World War II, and the two originals were destroyed, leaving only the replica in place… until Southwark Park rebuilt their version, basing it on the Clapham Common replica that had been copied from them in the first place!
Our bandstand withstood the test of time, right up until the 1960s when it began to succumb to the inevitability of old age and the prospect of a long, slow drawn-own demise. Other than for the odd lick of paint it was abandoned to the mercy of the elements, and by the turn of the new millennium it was rusting and crumbling, strewn with graffiti and used only by pigeons.
Fortunately in 2003 the Clapham Society combined with the Friends of Clapham Common to persuade the London Borough of Lambeth to embark upon a rescue campaign and, supported by a hefty grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as a not inconsequential contribution from the local community itself it was restored to something like its former glory.
Happily the bandstand is now in use again and when it is in use it boasts an excellent café, which is a wonderful place to be when the sun is shining, the music is playing and you are in the mood for an enjoyable cup of coffee and a cake.
When you are in the mood for a pizza however you need not travel very far. For just along the road is the famed Eco Restaurant, recognised as one of the very best of the Clapham Old Town restaurants.
Our pizzas, of course, don’t look like anything you might find in Kensington or Peckham Rye. Whatever appeals to you when perusing our menu, at our Clapham restaurant you will find only the original versions every time.
One sometimes wonders how it is that any cinemas remain open today.
In the early days of film a trip to the pictures was about more than just entertainment. Often the flickering, black and white newsreels invariably accompanied by solemn commentary in an absurd male and middle-aged BBC accent were the only means the people had through which to keep up with what was going on in the world about them.
Even as late as the 1970s Saturday Morning Pictures for the children was a reasonable enough alternative to a television service that boasted the princely total of three channels.
But in the 21st century, with multi-channel satellite and cable television and film technology that is even accessible through PCs and mobile telephones, why does anybody pay money to go to the cinema?
The answer must lie in the unique experience that is the big screen, the popcorn and ice cream and the big surround sound.
Certainly in Clapham the Picture House is thriving and is considered something of a local legend, a totem for the local and sometimes not so local community. Needless to say some concessions to modernity have been made, like everywhere else today cinema-goers that choose not to partake of tobacco no longer have to share the recycled air of those who do. But for those for whom a miniature tub of ice cream is not the refreshment of choice there is the option of taking in a glass of beer or wine from the bar. No need for the unseemly clamour during the interval that one experiences at many theatres.
Of course nothing quite goes down with a glass of wine like a full and bountiful meal, and as such a thing is as yet to be provided at the bar of the cinema or along the isles by the usherette one must wait until the film is over before rounding off the occasion by supplementing the fine wine with some fine cuisine.
Of all the restaurants close to Clapham Picture House one of the best known is the Eco Restaurant, one of the very finest Italian restaurants in Clapham. Here one can enjoy fine pizzas, pastas or any of a good variety of other options.
Indeed there is no finer place to sit back, relax and talk about the film.
There is a legend, entirely unconfirmed, that mozzarella cheese was first discovered by accident when some cheese curds were inadvertently dropped into a pail of hot water at a Neapolitan food factory.
Mozzarella cheese, along with tomatoes, is of course an essential ingredient of the original Margarita pizza. It is made from the rich milk of the water buffalo. Opinions differ as to how, when and why the water buffalo was introduced into Italy; some believe Mark Anthony brought them into the country from Egypt as a gift to the Emperor Julius Caesar.
Another theory is they were introduced into Italy from India in the seventh century, whilst others believe they were brought by invaders – Normans or Greeks. The cheese product is sometimes called mozzarella di bufala in recognition of its source.
In the late seventies the Italian government officially recognized the mozzarella di bufala as a protection to consumers from the fraudulent practice of selling mozzarella made of cow’s milk at a higher price than the real thing. Later, in 1993, mozzarella di bufala became a protected cheese, regulated by the “Consortium of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana” which guaranteed the origin and legal standard of identity as made only from 100% water buffalo milk.
The “Consortium for the Protection of the Buffalo Cheese of Campania" is an organisation of approximately 200 producers which, under Italian law, is responsible for the "protection, surveillance, promotion and marketing" of authentic mozzarella cheese.
Here in the UK one leading Clapham pizza restaurant prides itself on the nutritious and authentic ingredients that go into making its pizzas some of the finest and most sought after in London. Eco Restaurant, in Clapham High Street, specialises in making pizzas which combine a light and healthy base with fresh, nutritious ingredients to make a meal to remember.
Take a trip to Eco, recognised by most to be one of the best restaurants in Clapham, and witness for yourself the taste of true mozzarella on a full-flavoured base that allows the topping to truly express itself.
Italy is famous throughout the world for its history, its art, its culture, its music and its contribution to world cuisine. But what else do we know about it?
Here are a few lesser known facts about this fascinating nation:
- The average Italian family has 1.27 children.
- The Italian flag is inspired by the French tricolore introduced by Napoleon’s invasion in 1797.
- Two independent nations reside wholly within Italy’s borders – San Marino and the Vatican City.
- The modern Italian language has its origins in a region of Tuscany.
- The Italian contribution to science includes the electric battery, the barometer, nitro-glycerine and wireless telegraphy.
- The name of the electronic unit of measurement “volt” derives from Alessandro Volta, who invented the first battery in 1779.
- The Italians invented the piano.
- The average Italian consumes 26 gallons of wine per year and half a pound of bread each day.
- Italy is the fourth most visited country in the world, with over 40 million visitors each year.
- Twelve of William Shakespeare’s plays were based, in whole or in part, in Italy. They are Romeo and Juliet, Othello, The Merchant of Venice, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus, Antony and Cleopatra, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Winter’s Tale and Julius Caesar.
- Despite its German-sounding name, Cologne originated in Italy.
- The age of the average Italian is 41.
- Italy has the highest number of cultural sites recognized by UNESCO World Heritage.
- Italy has three active volcanoes – Vesuvius, Etna, and Stromboli.
- Family recreational activities in small villages include taking the traditional Sunday passeggiata (a family stroll).
- The three colours of the Italian flag represent the three virtues – hope (green), faith (white), and charity (red).
- Before Rome became a republic and an empire, it had seven kings.
- “Ars longa, vita brevis” is a common saying in Italy. Literally translated it means “art is long, life is short”.
- Whilst the official language is Italian, French and German are also spoken in some regions.
- Of all the Italian restaurants in Clapham, Eco Restaurant is demonstrably the most committed to providing healthy and nutritious options on its menu and eco-friendly solutions to waste disposal.
Captivating though all these facts are, you will only need to remember one of them when planning your next meal out in London.
Who is the Clapham Cook?
Let us begin with a clue. And you’ll see when you start to follow this story that clues are an essential part of what it is all about.
The clue is that today we know where the Clapham Cook is to be found – in a restaurant in Clapham Common. Whenever a pizza is ordered by a hungry patron, the Clapham Cook is there, just waiting to leap into action and showcase his not inconsiderable culinary talents. But it wasn’t always that way.
An earlier Clapham Cook was called Eliza Dunn, and she walked out of her job at the Todd residence in Clapham without having worked her notice and hadn’t communicated with her employer since except to send for a trunk, which had been packed some time before.
Wondering whether was any connection between her wilful disappearance and that of a clerk at a local bank, Hercule Poirot set about his investigations and discovered that Ms. Dunn had been sent away by a lodger at the Todd residence, one Mr. Simpson, who as it happened worked at the same bank as the missing clerk.
When Ms. Dunn’s belongings arrived at her new abode without her trunk a train of events was set in place, at the end of which Poirot’s investigations resulted in the arrest of Simpson who had boarded an ocean liner bound for America, and the recovery of the missing bank clerk’s body in Ms. Dunn’s missing trunk.
There is nothing quite so mysterious about today’s Clapham Cook. He and his team can be tracked down at a top Clapham pizza restaurant called Eco, where every last one of them can be banked on not to disappear until the work is done.
The expert team at Eco are all fine upstanding citizens whose only crime is to produce pizzas and pastas that put all others in the neighbourhood to shame. But don’t take my word for it, please come along to Eco yourself and investigate.