What Goes Round Comes Round

PizzaRound is an interesting shape.

There are so many everyday objects and items that are almost always circular that we tend to take their design rather for granted.

But just what is so special and important about circularity?

A clock is a thing that is usually round. Although clocks, watches and sundry other timepieces do sometimes come in non-circular designs, conventionally the clock is circular with the numbers spaced around the exterior (clockwise naturally) and equidistant from one another. Indeed we sometimes refer to “working round the clock”.

Dinner plates, bowls, glasses and cups likewise are likewise usually round. On the plate there is no corner in which a particular food item may hide.

A cup or a glass with corners would just be so impractical. The act of drinking carefully embraces every principle of gravity. A square cup just would not work.

If the importance of a smooth, rounded edge needs to be emphasised just try to imagine having to swallow a pill that was shaped like a sugar cube. It would hurt, possibly it would even cut. Certainly the experience would be unnecessarily unpleasant. Round, or at least rounded, is just so much better.

Even little green men from faraway planets concur with us on this truism. Note they visit us in flying saucers, round and uncornered.

So it is in the world of the pizza. Whilst there is such a thing as a square pizza (most noticeably in the US, where they also drive on the wrong side of the road) most pizzas are round, indicating continuity of flavour and no barriers to taste.

At the celebrated Clapham restaurant Eco all our pizzas are organic, nutritious, folded or unfolded and unconventionally tasty but unashamedly round, as you would expect a pizza to be.

When it comes to pizza design we are sticklers for tradition, no matter how square that may sound to some.

Salmon as a Pizza Filling – a Leap of Faith?

Pizza SpinningWhether one is catching it or eating it, the salmon enjoys a reputation for being a cut above the ordinary.

Salmon is a game fish, and those who desire to catch them on rod and line will usually have to pay dearly for the privilege. Whereas most other species can be sourced more or less freely from the rivers and the open seas, the salmon fisherman will need to take out paid membership of a dedicated fishery, whether that membership be on an annual, a monthly or a per visit basis. Even then there are often rules about how many fish can be removed at a time.

It is a source of pride for those who love old Father Thames that the river is now clean enough to play host to salmon. When I was a child my friends and I would fish the river and news even of the related trout, let alone salmon, being caught nearby was usually only a rumour. Trout are now caught in significant numbers, but as far as salmon are concerned although there are known to be some they remain nowhere near plentiful enough to be specifically targeted as quarry.

All this probably explains why salmon, whether as a main course or as a sandwich filling, is consistently the more expensive option. More often than not a restaurant that has smoked or grilled salmon on the menu at all can expect to be thought of as a cut above the others. Salmon is seldom café fare.

Of course the salmon is unusual amongst domestic freshwater fish in that it migrates to the sea and then back again. In other words it makes that extra effort to be where it feels best suited to be, and is prepared to travel a bit in pursuance of a little luxury.

Those restaurant goers who do likewise are more likely to enjoy the experience of dining at Eco Restaurant, one of the finest restaurants in Clapham Common. There they will have the opportunity to partake of the delicious Smoked Salmon and Spinach Pizza that enjoys pride of place on the restaurant’s extensive pizza menu.

Also featuring mozzarella cheese, capers, tomato and garlic oil, the magical combination of salmon with spinach resting atop a healthy and nutritious dough base is truly worth migrating for.

Take a leap through the door whenever you are next in the area.

Pizza, the Very Italian Meal with a Hint of Exotica

Seafood PizzaI have always joked about my parents, that their idea of enjoying an exotic meal is to open a tin of spaghetti.

Spaghetti, of course, is an Italian pasta dish, but for as long as I can recall and probably longer still a version of the dish has been very much a part of the English staple diet. The version in question involves the product being cooked, chopped up into very small pieces, immersed in a cheap sugary sauce that is sometimes alleged to contain tomato and cheese, put into a tin and, when opened, boiled for three minutes in a saucepan and eaten as a toast topping.

I am not being unfair to my parents. They were brought up in a society in which English people ate English food, and even I as a child lived on a diet of basic meat and vegetables lacking in any kind of spice beyond a sprinkling of white pepper. I distinctly remember the joy I felt when I ate my first curry, which came out of a box that was purchased from the local supermarket which also contained a small bag of plain white rice which had to be boiled in the bag. My parents, bless them, wouldn’t go near it. I got to eat the whole box.

It is hard to credit just how much things have changed in a generation. Go to any big city in the UK, or indeed even to most small country towns, and there will be “ethnic” options aplenty. Indeed it would not be unusual even at the most conspicuously English eatery to find curry, pasta or something involving chilli on the menu.

Alongside the “English” curry, one of the most popular and sought-after dishes is undoubtedly pizza. The delicious soft bread base liberally topped with almost any ingredient one can imagine is a favourite food all over the world. And although it is Italian in origin, it is not unknown to encounter versions with a recognisably Indian, Chinese, South East Asian or Middle Eastern touch.

At Eco Restaurant, one of the most popular restaurants near Clapham Common, one can enjoy pizza toppings of smoked salmon, Gloucester ham, mixed seafood and American style pepperoni, as well as fine wines from around the world. Eating out today is a truly cosmopolitan experience.

The “rosbifs” of old could not have begun to imagine what they were missing.

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.