'The variety of pizza flavours on offer is extensive, from the simple to the sublime'


Wed–Sat 5pm–2am, Sun 11am–2am

The blurb

“We were born in Naples—the home of pizza—and we’ve lived and breathed Neapolitan food ever since. That’s why we truly believe you won’t find more authentic pizza than ours outside Naples. With chefs from Neapolitan pizzaioli families making Neapolitan dishes using ingredients sourced only from the Napoli region, you won’t find a more genuine Neapolitan experience outside Napoli!”

The Chelsea location of this multi-location, authentically Neapolitan (just in case you missed that bit) chain is celebrating its 10th birthday this May, with a facelift to the restaurant and a revamp of the menu. So we made our way down the Chelsea ‘beach’ to see for ourselves if, despite the seemingly endless winter hangover of London, we could feel some Neapolitan sunshine.

The style

It’s a wonderful thing to be greeted by the warm smell of rising pizza dough and woodsmoke as you enter a restaurant. You instantly feel you’re about to sit down to something authentic and comforting.

Unfortunately Rossopomodoro is not quite that. The open kitchen—complete with glowing stone pizza oven—is the only vestige of Italian rusticity to be found here. With a mixture of high tables and stools lining one window, and a scattering of lower tables with uncomfortable plastic seats, the overall impression is more Ikea café than Neapolitan pizzeria. It’s a little too uniform and clean cut, without being entirely stylish.

Though not—hard chairs aside—an awful experience in itself, a restaurant that screams Naples at me from every other pore shouldn’t be this bland and…dare I say it, ‘Pizza Express’.

The crowd

The most reassuring thing about this restaurant must be that the crowd was as authentically Italian as the menu purported to be. The excellent wait staff seemed to take even more rapid-fire orders in Italian than English, and the vibe was busy, noisy and happy. Though it might not be quite the place for a romantic tete-a-tete—there are far too many screaming children in attendance for that—it’s a nice location for a large group gathering where you can freely compete with the bustle around you.

The food

Dining here really was a tale of two cities—and sadly one of them was certainly not Naples. I was hugely excited by the prospect of Neapolitan street food, one of several recent additions to the menu. The Fritto Napoletano promised to be essentially four varieties of fried cheese, from ham and pea flavoured arancini, to bolognese and smoked mozzarella balls. Though these were as crispy and guiltily comforting as hoped, I couldn’t taste four different flavours so much as see four different shapes.

My companion ordered the Calamari, which pleasingly came with another favourite of mine, fried courgettes; while not unpleasant, they felt a little mass-produced and the accompanying lemon mayonnaise had the overpowering tartness of an entire citrus grove.

The pizza, however, as expected, is where Rossopomodoro really scores. The redesigned menu guarantees a 24-hour natural proofing of all doughs, and the variety of pizza includes wholewheat, stuffed, ‘under 500 calories’ and (in a deliciously ironic contrast) deep fried. The variety of flavours on offer is extensive, from the simple to the sublime.

From the sublime end I ordered a Bresaola e Grana; smoked mozzarella, beef bresaola, rocket, crispy parmesan wafer and balsamic reduction. Not only was the 24-hour proof in the pizza dough (boom boom) but I can honestly say the depth of the smoked mozzarella was a revelation. Every element, from the salty parmesan through to the sweet balsamic married perfectly, and I’d have happily polished off the whole thing were it not for the carby hangover from my starter.

The Speck e Gorgonzola was my companion’s choice and, while not as revelatory, was comforting and rich. However, the side dish of Scarole, purporting to be fried endives with black olives, capers, pine nuts, raisins and anchovies, was essentially boiled cabbage. A wet, slightly sour and otherwise flavourless mass of grey, it might be one of the most unpleasant things I’ve ever eaten anywhere.

Thankfully the experience was redeemed by a perfectly light tiramisu, which was so well balanced that we were able to share it despite—by this stage—utterly bursting waist bands.

The drink

Like the menu, you will find the drinks resolutely Italian only, from the soft drinks to the beer (homemade limonata being particularly intriguing). The cocktail list was small but spot on, with an Aperol Spritz that was better balanced than many I’ve drunk on Italian shores. There was also a nicely varied clutch of wine on offer, all delightfully described and very appealingly priced. The Montepulciano D’Abbruzzo we ordered was exactly my kind of red; buttery and smooth, with hints of raspberries and cream, and we could easily have finished off a second bottle.

By the time we left the place was absolutely bustling with good feeling and happy-seeming diners, aided by the very friendly staff, so they must be doing something right at Rossopomodoro. And I did feel well-fed, possibly slightly uncomfortably so.

But the authenticity I’d been hoping for still seemed slightly lacking. Maybe it was because of the uniformity of décor, or because of a few genuine lows on the menu, or maybe I should really have had that second bottle of Montepulciano, but for all the promises of Neapolitan sun I never really managed to leave Chelsea.

Rossopomodoro Chelsea, 214 Fulham Road, London, SW10 9NB; 02073527677; www.rossopomodoro.co.uk

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