Pizzas are two a penny in the North East, but the elusive proper pizza is a little harder to find.
To misquote Meghan Trainor “it’s all about the base”, and the foundations of this dish is where so many fail.
An open kitchen at Central Oven and Shaker means you can almost feel the flames of its giant pizza oven where bases are bubbled to perfection.
Like so many of the new additions to this stretch of pubs and restaurants opposite Central Station they’ve gone down the industrial chic decor route – but they pull it off better than some of their neighbours.
About £1million was invested in transforming the former Lounge site into this pizza parlour and cocktail bar, and it shows in the trendy neon signs, cool yet comfortable seating and globes of lighting which soften the exposed ceiling pipes.
As it’s a bar, there’s also a licence until 2am on weekends. As such, they play a good range of relaxed electronica tunes, but they do it loudly, so at times it’s like you’re eating in a nightclub.
We were over in Newcastle for a gig, so it only added to our night out, but for those after a quiet bite to eat it may be an issue.
Talking of bites to eat, the menu is, as you’d expect, mostly pizza based, with a peppering of pasta dishes and a sprinkling of sharing boards.
The pizzas are Neapolitan style and the definitive Naples pizza is there of course, the margherita (£8), as well as some more adventurous options, such as butternut squash (£11) for the vegetarians and venison bolognese for the committed carnivores (£14), which are all served as 12in with a San Marzano tomato sauce – so you know it’s legit Italian. You can also order a gluten-free base and vegan cheese.
There’s even a white pizza choice, or pizza bianco to give it its proper title, as you so often see elsewhere in Italy, but rarely on these shores. This one comes as a four mushroom option for £11.
I chose the mozzarella (£9). A simple option, but no less tasty when done well. This one was: a hand-stretched base with just the right amount of bite topped with beautifully-fresh basil, cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
The sides were suitably authentic to the old country too and my choice of olives (£3.50) were fat and plump with flavour, none of your shrivelled olives out of a tin here.
As the pizzas are cooked fresh in the high-temperature oven they’re served pretty quickly after ordering, which is perfect if, like us, you have post-pizza plans.
Service was faff-free but efficient and our glasses were barely dry before we were asked if we wanted another, which was spot on considering the fast turnover of diners on a Saturday night. I was on the wine, but there’s also a creative list of cocktails on offer, including the classic Italian aperol spritz, which are buy one get one free, all day.