Andy Mossack reviews Eco Pizzeria in Clapham, a legendary family-owned Italian restaurant that takes sourdough very seriously.
Eco Pizzeria came with many surprises; all of them very welcome indeed. First off, it’s an Italian restaurant that is so authentic you’d think you’re in the heart of Naples instead of Clapham High Street. Yet, it’s owner Sami Wasif hails from Egypt. Then there’s the sourdough fixation. It’s everywhere you look, from the stunning pizza bases (the recipe for which is top secret, but what we do know is they’re made from four different flour types) to the crusty loaves adorning the shelves fresh from their own bakery.
But perhaps the biggest surprise, was last October it celebrated 30 years’ service by offering pizzas at 1993 prices for the whole month. Now if that isn’t cementing its place as Clapham’s favourite neighbourhood restaurant, I don’t know what could.
As with most successful ventures, Eco Pizzeria’s birth has a tasty backstory. Wasif’s love of sourdough began back in his family home in Egypt watching his grandfather Gerges bless and distribute sourdough flour to the local townspeople as per the farming tradition every spring equinox.
Once Sami left the nest and travelled to Europe his taste for freshly baked sourdough followed him and in 1989, he bought a small restaurant in Brixton called Pizzeria Franco (ironically from the original Franco family, who over a decade later inspired the well-known Franco-Manco chain) and began experimenting with sourdough pizza bases.
Fast forward to 1993 and an opportunity to open a larger place on Clapham High Street was snapped up and the rest is sourdough history.
Eco Pizzeria is a spacious double-fronted restaurant just a three-minute walk from Clapham Common station. On one side is the main restaurant with trendy cracked plaster walls and exposed brickwork. An open kitchen and wood-fired pizza oven provides the culinary theatre. While on the other side lies a very cool long bar area that is the very essence of Napoli shabby chic.
But let’s not forget, this is a neighbourhood pizzeria front and centre, and it’s the family friendly food that’s the headline act here. The pizzas are perfect. Full marks to Sami for whatever culinary wizardry he’s concocted. The famed sourdough bases stay crispy, bubbly and beautifully fire blackened, with generous toppings that feature all the usual suspects.
But there are a few welcome additions too; Smoked aubergine and burrata with baked garlic and basil pesto is one example, scamorza and coppa (pork shoulder), smoked mozzarella, rocket and pecorino is another. Both, a steal at just £12.95.
Despite these many tempting distractions, I went old school and tucked into an epic American hot. Spicy pepperoni, red and green chilli peppers, tomato sauce, mozzarella, olive oil, garlic, and herbs. £10.95, while Mrs. M feasted on oven-charred vegetables – aubergine, mixed peppers, zucchini, mushroom, tomato, rosemary, and thyme. £11.95. Trust me, these pizzas didn’t disappoint. Fresh, straight out of the oven hot, and meltingly satisfying.
But Eco’s menu is not just about pizzas, delicious as they are. The homemade fresh pasta selection is also impressive, including more than a few exotic dishes including venison ragu pappardelle £13.95 or clam linguine with prawns, garlic, white wine, tomato and chilli bisque sauce. £14.95.
Your average neighbourhood resto might well leave it at that, but Eco Pizzeria goes full Italian mama with both fresh and fried starters as well as a decent dessert menu. The starters are clearly aimed at appealing to Clapham’s burgeoning millennial demographic including avocado and tomato bruschetta £7.50 and even green-lip mussels – baked in an oyster tray with tomato, garlic, mushroom, dolcelatte and parmesan £8.95. We enjoyed a fresh tasting classic caprese – tomato, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil £7.50 plus I couldn’t resist a delightful basketful of zucchini fritters. Home-made courgette fritters coated in a light batter with parmesan. £6.95.
It really was something of an Italian feast, which sadly left no room for dessert. However, I did indulge in a glorious traditional almond affogato, a scoop of vanilla ice cream served with a shot of espresso and a shot of amaretto. £6.95.
Eco Pizzeria is the stand-out amongst the numerous trendy eateries on Clapham High Street. It just has the full package. Delicious authentic Italian food, a delightful contemporary vibe, family friendly, excellent value and you’re surrounded by oven fresh loaves of crusty sourdough. Personally, when it comes to food heaven, I can’t think of anything better.
Tell me more about Eco Pizzeria in Clapham.
Eco Pizzeria 162 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UG
T: 0207 978 1108
Open Monday to Thursday 12pm to 10.30pm; Friday 12pm – 11.30pm; Saturday 9am – 11.30pm; Sunday 9am – 10.30pm.