Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Wonderful Pizza, No Contest

PizzaThere is a compulsion somewhere deep within us all to do something better than anybody else has done, to make something bigger than anyone else has made, to go to extremes to which no other person has gone.

The world of pizza is by no means exempt from this lunacy. We commented in an earlier article about the world’s biggest pizza that was made, or perhaps we should say constructed, in South Africa a few years back.

But there are so many other records involving the pizza industry that it might be fun just to name a few.

In November 2004 the furthest pizza delivery in known history took place when a Vegetarian Supreme (what else?) that had been prepared in Feltham, West London ended up in Melbourne, Australia – Ramsey Street, home of the long-running soap opera Neighbours, to be precise – a distance of some 10,500 miles. Of course if the young lady who accompanied it had managed to keep it warm for the duration that really would have been impressive.

In 2006 one Cristian Dumitru, of Romania, ate two hundred pounds of pizza during the course of a week – more than his actual body weight – breaking Takeru Kobayashi’s previous record. Takeru later protested that the pizza Dumitru ate had too low a ratio of sauce to cheese to be actually be considered pizza, but the record stands all the same.

Later that same year, on a TV programme called The Early Show, Dennis Tran made three pizzas in just forty seconds and Pat Bertoletti broke another record by devouring seventeen slices of pizza in just five minutes.

Just last year an Amercian branch of a global pizza chain made and delivered a total of 6838 pizzas within a period of just 24 hours to celebrate the centenary of the California town of Taft.

But my favourite has to be the world record set by Erin O’Keefe and Amy Milano, also last year, who slapped each other around the face with a slice of pizza 174 times in 15 seconds on the Late Night With Jimmy Fallon Show. The criteria attached to this ultimately successful performance were: “any type of pizza can be used – slaps must be directed to face – may not use more than two slices of pizza”.

Whilst we are always happy to see pizza in the news we at Eco Restaurant Clapham, one of the popular restaurants close to Clapham picture house, do not see our pizza making and baking as a contest. We are far too polite to slap anybody in the face with our succulent and nutritious pizza slices, it simply wouldn’t be good for business.

But if there was a record for the best pizza restaurant in Clapham Common then who knows?

Gris or Grigio, Blanc or Noir, It’s the Same Great Taste

Pino GrigioThe famous Pinot Grigio wine has a fascinating history and for some understanding it almost seems to make the experience of drinking it more satisfying and complete.

The word pinot means “pine cone” in French and its use could be a reference to the shape of the clusters of grape from which the wine is made, which for some do indeed resemble that of a pine cone.

In France the wine is known as Pinot Gris, and its roots can be traced back at least as far as the Middle Ages, where it is found in the Burgundy region, and by 1300 it and Pinot Noir had found their way to Switzerland. Before long Pinot Gris was being produced in many parts of Europe. By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the wine had begun to fall out of favour in these areas due to poor yields, however researchers at an American university subsequently discovered that the Pinot Gris grape has an almost identical DNA to the darker Pinot Noir, and that the difference in coloration had probably derived from an earlier genetic mutation.

In Italy the wine is produced primarily in the Friuli-Venezia Guilia and other north eastern regions, and is known by the slightly different name Pinot Grigio. It is this incarnation of the product that has become especially popular on the international market in recent years.

At the Eco Restaurant Clapham this delightful wine is available to customers both as a white (Pinot Grigio Principato) and as a rosé (Pinto Grigio Rosé Ancora). In both the fruity taste predominates and as a good quality yet inexpensive option it is frequently ordered alongside our widely acclaimed pizzas or pasta dishes.

Try a glass of Pinot Grigio next time you are at this well-liked and celebrated restaurant in Clapham Common.

What Can You Get For a Tenor?

TenorsI don’t know why, but when anybody mentions “opera” I picture the two none-too-quick Indian teenage lads from Goodness Gracious Me who are waiting patiently at the theatre for the arrival of the US television host Oprah Winfrey only to discover, to their absolute horror, that they had misheard and had actually arrived at an opera.

Real opera, of course, as opposed to Oprah, would be associated by most people and for the most part with Italy. Whilst only one of the legendary three tenors was Italian, the unequalled though sadly late Luciano Pavarotti, the form originated in Italy in around 1600 and Italian opera continues to dominate the genre to the present day. The names Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti are amongst the most recognisable of any there are and their works continue to be performed today.

Many non-Italian composers, including Handel, Mozart and Gluck, have written operas in Italian. Some others, most noticeably certain French composers, did attempt at around the same time to take opera away from its solely Italian roots, but were ultimately not successful and Italy continues to lead the way in the field.

Of course, the reason the Italians sing so much could be down to the fact that they are happy with their food. The pioneers of pasta and pizza have long made music with their oils, herbs and spices. A simple tomato, or a humble block of cheese, sometimes becomes a melody in the hands of the right cook.

At the Eco Restaurant Clapham High Street the pizzas and other foods, and fine wines, are much to sing about. With a nutritious healthy base covered always with a delicious, healthy topping Eco is the ideal venue for a relaxing and enjoyable night out.

We could, in fact, compose an opera about it.

Up The Junction

ClaphamJunctionIt was a famous 1963 book by Nell Dunn and followed up with a film version in 1968 starring a then very young Dennis Waterman alongside Susan George, Suzy Kendall and Maureen Lipman.

“The Junction”, of course, was Clapham Junction, although the phrase “Up The Junction” went on to become a colloquialism for an unplanned pregnancy. Some years later the term lent its name to a hit single by the South London group Squeeze, who drew heavily upon the book and the film for inspiration.

Clapham Junction station is the busiest railway station in the United Kingdom, possibly in Europe, in terms of the number of trains that actually pass through – around 2000 on a typical day. About 12.5 million people either board or alight a train there each year.

For those of us who begin our journeys in West London and wish to head for the south of the country it provides a useful means of avoiding Central London, as the trains invariably stop at Clapham Junction en route having departed from Waterloo or Victoria.

It is alas a great shame that many of those millions who pass through the Junction will remain forever unaware of the presence of one of London’s greatest pizza restaurants just a mile or two along the road from the station.

There are many good restaurants in Clapham, but none quite like Eco Restaurant, the home of the Clapham pizza. Eco’s pizzas are specially created with a unique healthy base which is not only nutritious but is also designed to bring out the taste of the toppings at their very best.

Whenever you are passing through the nation’s busiest railway station why not take some time out to come and visit the best restaurant in Clapham and partake of its legendary succulent and healthy offerings?

Plan your visit well in advance, and you’ll not be left Up The Junction.

Our Hams Don’t Overact

Parma HamDoes anybody know why a bad actor who compensates for his lack of natural talent by overacting is called a “ham”?

Anyone who knows anything about ham, about the processes that go into its production and the idiosyncrasies of each of the various types of ham that are made around the world, would tell you that this is one meat that plays its part to perfection.

The term “ham” refers to the meat from the thigh of the hind leg of certain animals, usually pigs. Most hams that are sold on the market today are either cooked or cured, that is preserved by smoking or by the addition of salt.

Many different countries, inside and outside of Europe, boast their own unique regional products which vary considerably due to different methods of curing and of cooking, and of course because they derive from different species who are often fed and reared in quite different ways. For instance the French Jambon de Paris is wet-cured and boneless and carved into thin slices, whilst the German Westphaelischer is the product of pigs fed with acorns and is dry cured and smoked over a combination of beechwood and juniper branches.

The options are truly endless!

Probably the best known ham to come out of Italy is of course Parma Ham, or Prosciutto di Parma. Regulated by a consortium based in the Parma province that awards its own mark of recognition to locally reared products that make the grade, the production of Parma Ham has its own unique process. Only large, fresh hams are used and are cured using comparatively little salt, which include garlic. After it is salted the meat is then sealed with pig fat over the exposed muscle tissue, thus slowing down the process of drying. Curing occurs over a minimum period of a year.

At Eco Restaurant Clapham Parma Ham is included in many of our pizzas, antipasti and other dishes. It is the use of the finest ingredients in all our foods that stands us apart as being one of the best restaurants in Clapham, and recognised as such by an ever growing number of satisfied customers.

Our Pizzas Put the Fun in Funghi

FunghiAs I write I am easing my way through a portion of garlic mushrooms that I purchased from the chip shop around the corner.

They are not bad. The garlic makes them interesting and deflects from the blandness of the chips. The portion is generous and the diner is hungry.

It has got me thinking about mushrooms in general. As a child they were always an added extra to any meal from my point of view, and I feel it takes effort and creativity to transform them into a desirable dish in their own right.

My wife disagrees. She says she could eat mushrooms morning, noon and night. Whatever.

My generation was probably the first to take an interest in continental cuisine, but in some cases it was a slow process. I cannot have been the first nor the only person to have done a double take when seeing "funghi" (or "fungi") on the menu. For us Brits "fungus" was a thing that grew on trees, looked unsightly and indicated disease.

But in fact "funghi" is in most cases not only edible but also very nutritional. It comes in approximately 1.5 million different varieties, although 150 are poisonous so if picking them in the wild it can be useful to know which are which. A few are hallucinogenic, producing experiences not commonly associated with popular cuisine but also disorientation and nausea.

In pizzas they are one of the most popular ingredients, behind cheese and tomato. They can either supplement a dish based primarily upon other toppings, or form the main basis of the meal. They are versatile, easy to prepare and have for some a "meaty" taste despite being a popular vegetarian option (in fact mycoproteins which imitate the taste of meat in retail packaged products are made from mushrooms).

At Eco Restaurant Clapham Common one of the star items in our exciting range is indeed the Funghi pizza, with the best and most delicious (edible and non-hallucinogenic) mushrooms in olive oil infused with garlic and embedded in a traditional topping of tomato and mozzarella cheese.

Mushrooms also comprise an integral part of our La Dolce Vita and Quattro Stagioni options.

Why come and give them a try?

Our Pizzas Won’t Cost You a Barrow Load of Money

LiraVisit Italy, home of the pizza, today and you will pay for your meal in euros, as in most other major European countries. Here in the UK of course we still trade in pounds sterling.

But before the euro was introduced the price of a pizza was not merely a matter of single figures. For in Italy the unit of currency was the lira, which sadly was the butt of jokes elsewhere on the continent due to its high denominations.

Like the deutschmark, now also a detail of history, the lira in its most recent format was a relatively new currency, dating back only to 1861 after the country had been unified.

Not every Briton will know that the word "lira" descends from the Latin "libra" which means "pound". The kinship between the two currencies explains why the UK’s pound symbol bears some resemblance to the letter "L" that once denoted the lira.

But if the symbols are similar there was clearly little to relate the two denominations. Whilst a UK pound is worth a little more than a euro, there would today be a whole 1936 lire in a euro. Or to put it another way, there are approximately 0.005 euros in a lira.

And so it would be perfectly in order to expect to pay 20,000 lire or even more for a pizza, which would have been an awful lot if paid for in single coins. One envisions the wheelbarrow loads of money carried around by people in Germany during the inter-war period during times of hyper-inflation.

But in actual fact the Italian currency was not especially a victim of inflation. Merely of too many numbers. At the time of its passing most Italian adults were lira millionaires.

The Eco Restaurant is a notably classy Italian restaurant in Clapham, serving notably classy Italian and other food. But when it comes to setting our seriously competitive prices we like to keep it simple, which is why our healthy, nutritious pizzas, refreshing drinks and mouth watering desserts are all priced in UK pounds.

No commas and very few zeros, just succulent food which is the common currency of all the best restaurants wherever you may happen to be in the world.

No Longer the Salad Days for Veggies

Salad Days Vegetarians do tend to get a bad press. In the eyes of many meat equals protein and the person who abstains from eating it, whatever their reasons, must by nature be scrawny, undernourished and underpowered.

The vegetarian (although not the vegan) could credibly mount the defence that, being more dependent than most on dairy products of the non-meat variety (egg, milk, cheese etc.), he or she is likely to consume as much if not more high-quality protein that their carnivorous counterpart. Egg white in particular offers the most digestible protein form commonly available.

There was a time when it was very difficult to be a vegetarian. The veggie was considered by most of society to be a trifle “strange”, and in most restaurants and eating houses a vegetarian meal was considered along the lines of a Sunday roast without the meat, or a ham sandwich without the ham.

More than this, the word itself evoked an image in the mind’s eye of a thin, bespectacled, slightly sickly looking chap (usually with a beard and sandals) tucking excitedly into a plate full of leaves, with perhaps just a squirt of vinaigrette to fend off its otherwise total blandness.

Nowadays of course vegetarianism is a whole industry, with soya being used to replace meats and milks, and the emergence of mycoproteins that impersonate, sometimes quite successfully, more or less every meat product on the market.

Restaurants now routinely cater for vegetarians, not by simply omitting a major component of the meal but by providing a range of stand-alone veggie options, nourishing, tasty and delicious meals in their own right.

At the Eco Restaurant Clapham several of the most popular pizzas are in fact vegetarian and are enjoyed by veggies and meat eaters alike.

Which tells you that whether you are herbivore, pescatarian or carnivore you will always find something delicious and exciting to satisfy your appetite.

Clapham, Of Pizza Fame

Clapham Common Clapham may be a modest South London district, dominated as it is by its vast common, its vibrant high street and the “traditional” aura of its Old Town, but if it were instead a boastful kind of place it would have much to shout about, not least because through the years it has been the birthplace, or in some cases the residence, of a proud list of well known persons from all across the arts, as well as fashion designers, TV chefs, sports personalities, diarists, radical politicians, philanthropists and even a touch of royalty.

The Harry Potter epics were penned at a flat in Clapham, following the distinguished writing tradition of Sir Kingsley Amis, who was born there, Graham Greene, who lived there, and Samuel Pepys, who died there.

Residents from the world of comedy and acting have included Lesley Ash, Jo Brand, Paul Kaye, Dennis Waterman, and Vanessa and Corin Redgrave.

Revolutionary Gerry Healy and journalist Polly Toynbee have both been residents of Clapham, as was the late punk fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. Damon Hill provides the fast and Ainsley Harriott the food. Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, had a flat in Lavender Gardens. And of course the Clapham Sect, led by William Wilberforce, famously campaigned for the abolition of slavery from the Holy Trinity Church on Clapham Common.

There is another man who continues to put Clapham on the map, as much a wizard in his own field as Harry Potter and a man who has written his own chapter in the story of this wonderful and vibrant South London community.

Hi name is Sami, you may or may not have heard of him, but he is the creator of the delicious and nutritious Eco sourdough pizza of great renown.

His famous team performs seven nights a week at a top of the bill Clapham pizza restaurant called Eco Restaurant Clapham High Street.

Book now, to avoid disappointment.

No Matter How Different, It’s Still a Pizza

vito3 The pizza is a major chapter in the rich history of world cuisine that is still being written.

With its roots in Italy but with derivatives and distant cousins to be found amongst the Greeks, Phoenicians, Egyptians and a host of other peoples, and with wholly new variants reporting present throughout the last century or so on the other side of the Atlantic, the pizza manages to be simultaneously both proud Italian creation and cosmopolitan international phenomenon.

Which leads us to ask what fascinates us most about the pizza, whether it is its versatility that allows it to manifest itself in so many forms and guises, not only with so many diverse toppings and flavourings but also its different shapes, sizes and forms. Or whether it is its uniformity that reassures us that thick or thin, round or square, meaty, fishy or vegetarian it remains nonetheless a pizza.

Pizza can be enjoyed in thin crust or deep pan format, or stuffed with cheese around the outer edges or not as the case may be. It can be round, square or oblong – even elongated. It can be folded or unfolded, served whole or in individual slices. Some establishments now even offer pizzas that are half one topping, half another. The Americans serve it up as a pie put one can also find microwave pizzas, mini pizzas that can be consumed whole and even pizza flavoured crisps!

Rumours that pizza is soon to be marketed as a beverage remain as yet unconfirmed.

At Eco Restaurant, the premier pizza restaurant in Clapham Common, we have our own concept of this world famous dish. We serve something we like to call nice pizza. Or healthy pizza if you prefer, or nutritious pizza or appetising pizza. Too us it matters not too much what shape, nor which name by which it goes. We know it is how a pizza tastes that distinguishes quality fare from the ordinary.