Nancy Silverton. Californian, chef, baker, restaurateur, author and, oh yeah, casual pizza legend.
I have a teeny, tiny, giant, supersized girl crush on this funky, talented, smart, warm woman which began with her ‘Chef’s Table’ episode on Netflix and was firmly assured after lunch last Friday at her one-week pop-up in Passo, one of London’s loveliest Italian restaurants just off the Old St roundabout.
Beautifully shaded in a palette of nudes that Bobbi Brown herself would be proud to out her name to, this is a vast dining room but one that feels delightfully intimate thanks to the cosy bar, the varied table sizes, the honeyed caramel décor accents and the warm daylight that streams in through floor to ceiling windows at the back. Staff are friendly & welcoming, happy to chat and eager to ensure your time there is a good one plus there’s a buzz through the space that was apparent as both a gentle murmuring at the start of service and then a fully obvious delivery of all-out good times once every table was full.
Silverton, dough master & all round exceptional culinary talent, was visible during our lunch on the last day of a residency that saw 900+ covers make their way through the restaurant in a week and her touch was apparent in every dish that emerged from the open plan kitchen.
*Sidenote, whilst waiting for my friend to arrive, I may or may not have texted that I could ‘see Nancy on the pass’, thereby forever cementing my place as a total geek on the food landscape in which I live…judge me not dear reader, you too dwell there or you wouldn’t be reading this.
A chopped salad was full of unexpected flavours & textures – dainty slices of nutty cheese which paired beautifully with strips of salty cured meat and jolly, plump chickpeas that were rolling around most contentedly in fragrant rosemary – but it was the pizza we were here for, pizza that may well have muscled its way to being the best I’ve ever had in my life.
Crusts were exquisitely dotted with puffy, charred-edged & burst-wide-open bubbles of the lightest, crispiest base – these were not crusts to be nibbled around, tucked surreptitiously into used napkins or sullied with a dunking into plastic tubs of ranch. These were crusts to be eaten slowly and to be savoured alongside sloshing glasses of ruby Montepulciano, itself fruity, juicy & light enough to wholeheartedly support our lazy lunchtime drinking like the very best kind of friend.
Fontina, mozzarella, sottocenere al tartufo and sage made for an immaculate vegetarian menu pick; luxurious, silky & slick with golden puddles of oil, this was a dream of cheese heavy enough to weigh down that delicate crust but light enough to devour without hesitation.
A fennel sausage option was punchy with the sort of unapologetic, fist-pumping flavour that should fill you with meaty satisfaction before being soothed with creamy panna, mozzarella and sweet red & spring onions. Defiantly savoury & moreish, *THIS* is how pizza should be – deep dish has its place but unless I feel the urge to waddle to the sofa and collapse in a dough coma, that place is generally not a weekday lunchtime.
Our adorably amiable waiter smartly clocked us as the kind of gals who are likely to be seduced by the words ‘Would you like dessert? There’s only one and it’s only here for this week…’ and for that I can only say ‘bravo, sir, bravo’ for indeed, we are those gals and we do want dessert and when it’s olive oil cake with olive oil ice-cream, salt & rosemary brittle, we want it with the sort of unabashed abandon that some might say could lead to gluttonous reputations.
Some can say what they like…when it’s worth it, it’s worth it. A killer crust on the exterior hid a crazy light & fluffy centre and that rosemary-salt-olive oil grouping, the Grace Kelly of dessert flavour combinations, was flawless.
I can’t vouch for the normal menu here at Passo but I’d hazard a guess that any restaurant choosing to work with someone like Ms. Nancy – I can call her that now that we’re BFF’s – can only be the sort of place that’s smart & visionary enough to make me go back again, hopefully for more of the same. Pizzeria Mozza in sun-drenched West Coast USA location might be too far to venture to next time the craving for pizza rears its feisty head but in one lovely Easter weekend lunch sitting, I’ve had a welcome taste of what makes Ms. Nancy and her food so very special.