The mild winter and early tease of summer have brought us some surprising early bounties this year; I’ve noticed that some restaurants, for a couple of weeks now, have already been wooing diners with early rising asparagus, the undisputed, undefeated, multi-weight king of British vegetables. Wild garlic had sealed its place as the successful undercard weeks ago, too.
As I discovered when being foolish enough to raise my colours on the issue, pizza is a source of much controversy and debate amongst the collective consciousness of Londoners; it’s one of the issues folk regularly fall out over, similar to Brexit, or a game of Monopoly. Unlike asparagus or wild garlic, it isn’t a seasonal delight, only to be enjoyed for a few precious months of each year. It is everywhere, from multi-national delivery chains, to local Naples-style pizzerias.
The current state of affairs with the severely competitive latter mainly comes down to who can “out Naples” whom, and be as authentic as possible. Enter Quartieri: an established goliath of quality pizza in Naples. They’ve decided to begin their London venture in Kilburn. Kilburn is a part of town I’ve been visiting regularly for some years now. Estate agents will try and flog it to you as “South Hampstead” or some other bollocks-laced geographical bastardisation. They’re missing the point: Kilburn is Kilburn, and that is the attraction.
It was summed up perfectly when I asked in the restaurant: “Why Kilburn?”. The answer? “Because it’s a bit rough around the edges like parts of Naples” – and the pizza that you’re scoffing for that matter. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you out-Naples the competition. We all know that the cheese, the San Marzano tomatoes, and “00” flour are flown in every morning, carried on the thighs of a Napoli virgin. Don’t bore us, be honest and tell us something new. It was spot on.
The quality of the pizza was truly exceptional and possibly the best I’ve ever eaten, anywhere. The oven, built by an old-timer from Naples, fag in mouth, which took months to condition to be ready to create this product, was worth every hour of effort that had gone in. The flavour, seasoning – everything was a cut above almost anything I’d had before. Considering Quartieri isn’t even open yet, get ready to visit before you end up queuing all the way from where Hampstead actually is.
Quartieri 300 Kilburn High Road 020 7625 8822 quartieri.co.uk