A wall had to be taken down to get the two tonne firebrick pizza oven, imported all the way from the Old Country, into new Italian restaurant San Lorenzo.
After all that sweat and brick dust, you want to hope its pizzas are the business. I put them to the test on a visit to this new kid on the block to Washington’s restaurant offering.
The heavy duty pizza perfecter, which can be viewed through a large kitchen pass, is one of many features which makes this New Road venue unrecognisable from its former guise as Amiro’s – thanks to three months of renovations and £100,000 of investment from new owners Taylor and Young Pub Company.
The theme is retro Italian with ’50s style resort posters plastered on the exposed brick walls, while leather booths and contemporary tiles give it a modern edge that elevates it above your stereotypical Italian restaurant and its makeshift chianti bottle candle holders.
We’d booked ahead for our Tuesday night meal, and we’re glad we did. The place was chocka, which created for a welcoming atmosphere with a buzz in the air.
Service was attentive, friendly and informal, which reflects the laid back ethos at this family-friendly restaurant.
Staff helped win us over immediately by serving our drinks order of Prosecco and Becks Blue alcohol-free lager (that most perfect of tipples for designated drivers or pregnant diners) in frosted cold glasses.
As you’d expect from a restaurant of Italian origin, there’s a decent-sized wine menu as well as a range of beers for those who like a heavier tipple, including Peroni on draught (£4.60 a pint). The cocktail menu is more limited, but there’s plans to increase the choices once the adjacent bar and function room is finished.
The food menu is equally substantial with a large range of choices – nothing too out there, but just what you’d expect from any Italian restaurant worth its salt. If classic food from this corner of the globe is your thing, you’ll probably find your favourite on there. Vegetarians are well catered for too and don’t just have to settle for a cheese and tomato pizza.
Prices are as broad as the choices, with starters beginning at £3.95 for a garlic bread and stretching to £21 for an 8oz fillet steak.
I started with the most ubiquitous of Italian first courses: caprese con bufala (£5.95). It’s a difficult dish to get wrong really and this one was a fine balance of mozzarella and tomato drizzled with just the right amount of balsamic vinegar and oil.
What isn’t so easy to get right is pizza. The key to a good pizza is the base, and all too often restaurants dish up pre-prepared bases drowned in oil.
Thanks to that pizza oven, you get none of that here. The pizzas are made to order in the oven to give them that authentic stone baked bite.
As such, you should be prepared to wait, but it’s worth it.
There’s 19 options to choose from, ranging from £6.95 to £10.95, including lighter choices for those who are watching their waistlines. I went with the San Daniele (£8.95).
A perfect doughy base – which was misshapen so you know it’s legit handmade – arrived with lashings of Parma ham, fresh rocket and a blanket of shaved Parmesan.
This was pizza just like Mama makes.