Sometimes it takes me forever to get round to reviewing an eaterie, but, however unfair it may be, pizza places do seem to skip to the top of the list and it’s only taken me a week to get round to Bianco – not least because I’ve been hearing some extremely positive things about it – and the way it’s run.
It’s where the old Taste of India used to be. I didn’t hate the ToI but I didn’t love it either – it was, frankly, unmemorable, and the dishes seemed to have an awful lot of sugar in them, so although I don’t like to see a shop close in Greenwich (unless it’s Pizza Luna, which was the second worst meal I have ever eaten and is now, happily, Helva) I am much happier to see somewhere with a bit of character opening in its place. It’s Italian family-run – and it shows.
Someone told me about how she walked past one evening, saw it full of people and decided to eat there herself – turned out the place wasn’t open yet, it was just the family eating – but they invited her in anyway. Other people have reported that the owner or another family member has come to say hello to them during the meal (a very Italian thing to do.) I often wonder why other restaurant owners don’t work out that talking to their customers, welcoming them and including them costs absolutely nothing and creates an awful lot of goodwill before a single mouthful has been taken.
The family is from Naples, the (occasionally disputed) birthplace of pizza, which is why the dishes you’ll get there are very different from most pizza joints (even in Italy) and they do take a bit of relaxing into. For starters they’re very simple – not the thousand-and-one topping varieties that you get elsewhere – and could even be described as spare. The base is wood-fired (I can’t say how pleased I am to see an independent, proper wood-burning oven in Greenwich at last) and not as crispy as we are often used to over here.
A good half of the toppings are without tomato (our group ordered a variety – just to get a feel for the place across the board, you understand, nothing to do with greed) and aren’t as anemic as white pizzas I have had elsewhere (pizza without tomato doesn’t seem quite ‘right’ to me, but it’s perfectly acceptable in Naples.)
In fact, these are such simple pizzas that they do, to our stuffed-crust-Hawaiian-mega-hot-chicken-tikka-supreme tainted tastebuds, take a little getting used to. I reckon it takes about five mouthfuls to really begin to appreciate the flavours here and once you do, there’s no turning back. The wine list is suitably Italian. I liked the Chianti best.
I like this place a lot. There are minor improvements to be made – the pasta arrived on cold plates so was lukewarm by the time it got to the control-guys who had bravely chosen pasta rather than pizza, and it will be easier to pay with cards rather than needing actual folding money when they get the machine sorted out (though it’s no real hardship, there’s a cashpoint just round the corner) – but the welcome and the pizzas are very good indeed. I look forward to them being around for some time.