Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Santoré: We Found Our Go-To Neapolitan Pizza Place...for Now

Name Santoré
Address 59-61 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4QL
Diners outside at Santore.
Phone 020 7812 1488
Web site none
Main dish price range £6.20-£13.80
Rating 4 stars. A stunner of a restaurant with only occasional misses.  
Recommended dishes Margherita pizza 

One could be forgiven for wondering if Santoré, our new favorite pizza joint in East London, even meets this blog's definition of an ethnic restaurant: "a restaurant serving the food of a particular ethinc group, with an aim to primarily serving expatriates from that ethnic group."  Located in trendy Exmouth Market, this bustling cafe, which strives to make authentic Neapolitan pizza, attracts a motley crowd-- a few tables of Italians, but also lots of big groups of red-faced, drunken British people just enjoying the big glasses of wine and pizza available by the meter. When Nick and I first walked in, we felt it was sort of part-way, if not all the way, in the ethnic category.  The waiters greeted us with a volley of friendly"buongiornos" and the pizza oven lurking in the corner definitely looked as authentic as authentic could be, based on our past experiences in Naples.

The typical scene at Santore.
But once we bit into the pizza we were convinced we had to include this brightly lit, low-on-atmosphere locale on the food blog. Although Santoré offers a few things that don't feel too authentically Italian (Dutch Veal Escalopes with Breadcrumbs, anyone?) diners who stick to the Neapolitan pizzas, Santore's specialty, are in for a real treat. We recommend the standard margherita pizza that appears in the pizze section of the menu-- not the pizze special section-- and sells for £6.20.  Like at any good Neapolitan pizza restaurant, this single-plate, one-person pie came to us hot and fresh out of the oven. The basil pieces were massive; the sauce tasted so fresh it burst with flavor; and the pizzaiolo nailed the absolute hardest part of the enterprise-- the center. The middle of the pie achieved that perfect, delicate balance where it managed to be hot, gooey, and melt-in-your mouth delicious, without going so far that the pizza lost all integrity when you tried to lift up the first slice.

My half of our margherita was gone pretty quickly.
Before we go on with our thoughts about Santoré though, a bit of background on our pizza philosophy: We're generally what you'd call simple pizza people. There are few places-- Pauly Gee's in Brooklyn, being a big exception-- where we ever gobble up pizzas loaded with non-standard ingredients like rocket (a.k.a. arugula), lemon, and olives. At most of our most beloved Neapolitan pizza joints, we prefer to let the perfect, bare, basics (tomato, cheese, basil, and big hunks of sea salt in the crust) stand out without too much adornment. Our favorite Stateside pizza place, in fact, so dogmatically adheres to the simple-is-best philosophy that on most days it only offers five basic pizzas on its  menu-- and not one of them has meat.

So, the margherita is always a big test for us.  A secondary test that we expect most places with a good margherita to ace: The buffalo margherita, a version of the basic pie where regular mozzarella is replaced with much stronger, buffalo mozzarella instead, usually producing a more delicious result. Surprisingly though, this is not the case at Santoré.  When we ordered this pizza-- which costs £7.65 and appears in the pizze special section of the menu-- they gave us a pie that was still perfectly executed from a crust standpoint. The cheese though was chilled in the middle, and felt like it had just been pulled out of cold water by the chef-- a bizarre choice that our waiter seemed to indicate was purposeful on the restaurant's part. If so, Santoré, as good as you are, let me tell you: You aren't doing yourself any favors with that approach.

The mixed salad.
Besides the pizza, the other things on the menu were impressive without being a total wow. The mixed salad (£3.50) was a nice way to start dinner, being a pleasant mix of arugula and cherry tomatoes, dusted with crispy ham.  And the sauteed spinach (£2.40), which was buttery and piping hot, also made a lovely side. Santoré also gets some bonus points for having ample seating outside, which makes for a nice atmosphere you can watch the hustle and bustle of Exmouth Market. These cold winter days, they're heating up the outdoor tables with red heat lamps-- with surprisingly successful results. (The lamps produced the odd light in our pictures though.)

For now, we're loving our post-gym trips to Santoré-- so much so we've already been back three times. We're going to keep looking for that pitch-perfect buffalo margherita though. We have a few more far-flung places to try that we crowd sourced with some Italians we know, so we'll be reporting back with more reviews soon.
Santore on Urbanspoon


HuskerDont said...

Sounds better than Paulie Gees!

restaurant port melbourne said...

The number of pizza corner has been increasing day by day. Pizza has gain popularity among people as they prefer this as formal and informal treat too. The popularity details of some of stores of London are enlisted in this blog in an excellent manner.

Toby said...

The photo of the margherita pizza is simply mouth-watering! Just like you described it: it looks gooey & delicious. I'd love to visit this pizzeria when I make my way over to London.