THE PIZZA PACK

Two more join Ca­nary Wharf’s Ital­ian army

The Wharf - - Front Page - Laura En­field

Neapoli­tan pizza is a del­i­cate riot of flavour cre­ated in 500C fire that emerges steam­ing and ready to be gath­ered care­fully into your mouth.

Chefs in Naples – the pizza cap­i­tal of Italy – are fa­mously guarded about shar­ing their meth­ods. But on meet­ing English broth­ers Thom and James El­liot it is easy to see how the ex­u­ber­ant duo man­aged to charm their way into the se­cret world.

It is five years since they served their first slices of pizza from a stall on Soho’s Ber­wick Street Mar­ket. They now have seven branches.

West In­dia Quay is their lat­est and largest to date and they show us around the Pizza Play­ground fea­tur­ing a 70-seater ter­race with Bocce ball pitch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe gam­ing area, a gi­ant fuss­ball ta­ble and a retro No Fear ar­cade game.

They point out the gi­ant Pi­ag­gio disco ball, dec­o­rated by their own hands, the pizza box art on the walls, chef cam and the in­gre­di­ents ticker board in­spired by Thom’s first trip to Ca­nary Wharf.

The 33-year-old from Shep­herds Bush said: “I came here think­ing it wouldn’t be for us. But I got off the train and thought it was amaz­ing. You feel like you are in New York.

“And then walk­ing across the bridge was like com­ing into an Ital­ian pi­azza. And I just fell in love with the beau­ti­ful Grade I listed build­ing.”

In­side is a re­flec­tion of the brother’s per­son­al­i­ties with bright pizza wall­pa­per, Ital­ian movie posters of Karate Kid II and Ghost­busters and lights made in the shape of gi­ant Parme­san cheeses.

“We wanted to avoid that faux Ital­ian thing,” said James, 31, from Brix­ton.

“We think peo­ple in Ca­nary Wharf had high pow­ered jobs but are the more young, fun ver­sion of the City slick­ers and will get our jokes.

“We want them to come across the bridge, take off their ties and have some fun.”

The food how­ever is pure Ital­ian tra­di­tion with most in­gre­di­ents shipped in from Naples.

“The pizza is the thing,” said James. “We are al­ways work­ing to im­prove that and when it is re­ally good then you can af­ford to have fun with the rest.”

It is their largest branch to date and their first book­able res­tau­rant. The broth­ers say it is a “bit of a risk” but they like to em­brace a chal­lenge.

It as this carpe diem ap­proach that saw them set off on their pizza pil­grim­age in the first place.

James said: “We were in a pub one day and both had mun­dane jobs we hated, me in TV pro­duc­tion and Thom in ad­ver­tis­ing.

“We had just been to see the guys at MeatLiquor when it was just a van in Peck­ham and I thought: ‘Wow, street food could be a thing’.

“We had wanted to work in restau­rants be­fore but the idea of that amount of in­vest­ment was a bit of a stretch.”

They came up with the idea of a pizza street food and the next day Thom handed in his no­tice.

“I re­alised how far we were from be­ing ready to start out busi­ness so I had to go and get a job for Stan­nah stair­lifts.”

But their en­thu­si­asm pre­vailed and saw them then sink £1,500 into a pil­grim­age across Italy in a tiny Pi­ag­gio van with a top speed of 20mph.

“As we trav­elled around try­ing all the food we got fat­ter and fat­ter and it was a tighter and tighter fit,” laughs James.

“It was very hard at first to get peo­ple to talk to us as Neapoli­tan chefs fa­mously have a say­ing that you aren’t taught the recipe for pizza, you steal it.

“But we made a pro­gramme about our trip and hav­ing the cam­era crew re­ally helped. As soon as you put a cam­era in an Ital­ian’s face they want to tell you ev­ery­thing, five times.”

The se­crets they learned go into each of their piz­zas which are made with Neapoli­tan flour and topped with in­gre­di­ents such as por­to­bello mush­room and truf­fle and smoked napoli.

They will also be ex­pand­ing their frig­gi­to­ria of­fer­ing with deep fried ar­ti­choke hearts, cal­zone fritta, arancini and Ital­ian mac’n’cheese.

James said: “We didn’t know any­thing about the busi­ness when we be­gan but now we have such a great team around us, many who are from Italy, and we wouldn’t be here now with­out them.”

If the pizza is re­ally good, then you can af­ford to have fun with the rest

MATT GRAYSON

Broth­ers James and Thom El­liot have made enough dough to open their largest branch on West In­dia Quay

The broth­ers’ pizza

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