“I think of dieting. Then I eat pizza”.
I wish these were my beautifully succinct words, but they actually apparently belong to Dutch fashion model Lara Stone (I know, right. Pizza and a model – go figure). But I’ve stolen them, because they sum up what happened to me when I went to Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza in Birmingham.
I’d heard a fair bit about Rudy’s from afar – mainly that it’s pizza is bloody good. I’d wanted to try for a while but on the night I met my friend and we were deciding where to eat, I was planning to resist. Calories and all that.
We walked down Bennetts Hill and saw it. I was tempted. But we did a lap of the surrounding area, including Grand Central, and found ourselves somehow walking back to Rudy’s in some kind of dough-dreaming reverie, lured by the promise of authentic Neapolitan pizza.
I went to Naples once, as part of some merry jaunt around Europe while I was at university. I don’t remember the pizza, but I actually don’t remember much at all, so we won’t judge anything by that.
However, my brother (he of breakfast pizza fame has been and swears by their pizza. I also once had a boss who was obsessed by pizza – real Neapolitan pizza – and could wax lyrical for quite some time about how nothing else would do.
The difference? The crust is thin. Super thin, so it’s puffed up around the edge but too thin to pick up in the middle, where toppings make it go a bit soggy. You tend to have more sauce than cheese and simplicity is key. Domino’s this ain’t.
Don’t worry, you get instructions on the menu which explains how the dough is made (with just four ingredients and double-fermented), cooked (60 seconds only) and how to eat it (“eat it with a knife and fork, or cut it into quarters, fold up & use your hands!”).
In we went. It’s open-plan and industrial yet softly lit, so you can have a romantic pizza date or just avoid having to see your work-mate’s face too clearly if you don’t want to. The service (I know, I’m off again) was swift and we were speedily taken to a table by someone who genuinely seemed to love what they do – something so often lacking in more ‘big name’ places.
There are plenty of pizzas to choose from, plus a board of enticing specials. If a 14″ pizza to yourself is somehow not quite enough, there are starters too, as well as side salads to add to your dough-fest.
After much deliberation I opted for the Ancozzese, one of Rudy’s ‘white pizzas’. This means there isn’t a tomato base. Their instruction is: “trust us”, so I did. On top of that distinctive base was Tuscan sausage, smoked Mozzarella, chilli flakes and friarielli – which is basically a kind of broccoli.
The dough was, as expected, light, puffy and crispy on the outside then less yielding in the middle thanks to the toppings. The taste was subtle but with a bit of a kick courtesy of the chilli. On reflection, I was possibly a bit too limp-wristed and rather than gallantly trying to carve through my offering with a knife and fork, should have gone for the more authentic approach and just picked it up and tackled it like a real Neapolitan. Next time!
While my pizza was tasty, my friend chose the winner of the night. She actually opted for a vegan special topped with San Marzano tomatoes (apparently only these will do if you’re really serious about pizza – I learned that from my old boss), garlic, roasted peppers, olives, sweetcorn and mushrooms.
This choice really did give you the proper experience of a pizza like this, with the tomato making the middle even more squishy than mine was, and forcing you to pick sections up and scoop it up.
The tomatoes were sweet, the olives salty, the herbs and seasoning just right and the addition of whole cloves of roasted garlic was for me – though I appreciate possibly not for everyone – the stuff of dreams. If I’d known a vegan pizza could have been so good I’d have gone for it myself.
The orange and fennel side salad, complete with capers, radicchio, olives and an orange & olive oil dressing sounded so good we couldn’t help but order it, using the excuse of ‘something light and palate cleansing’ (yeah right) to justify our choice.
It was indeed light and the right thing if you needed a reprieve between bites of dough, also adding a bit of crunchy texture to a give your molars a break (I mean this in all the best ways possible).
We didn’t have dessert, as much as I’m a glutton for Tiramisu, chocolate torte and affogato, so it might be handy to point out that for an early-evening bite this is pretty good value, with pizzas coming in at less than a tenner.
That aforementioned service is also worth its weight in gold – imagine my surprise, delight and general adoration when our waitress pointed out to me that although I’d ordered a small glass of wine she’d popped in a large for no extra charge because I looked like I’d had a bad day.
Yep, I could take this the wrong way and assumed I looked a state, or be annoyed that my order was upgraded against my issues, but I’m going to take it for what it was – a kind act by someone who can read a customer and act accordingly. And no, it wasn’t because I’m a ‘blogger’ – it’s because I had genuinely had a crap day.
We left happy and ready for bed and a dough-induced dreamy sleep. There is no denying the pizza at Rudy’s is what this style of pizza is all about. Initially I wondered if this style is for me, or whether I may be a heathen who still likes a good old inauthentic slice of a pizza pie. Perhaps that’s right, or perhaps I just didn’t address mine with quite the right roll-your-sleeves-up attitude.
That aside, I’d still 100% recommend Rudy’s and definitely plan on going back again. There are pizzas I still want to try – including a special white pizza topped with Nduja, basil, gorgonzola and Fior di Latte that I’m still wondering whether I should have chosen. And when looking for somewhere for a catch-up with friends, a break from shopping, or even a quite small (or large) glass of wine on my own in between work stuff, Rudy’s is perfect.
I paid in full at Rudy’s. They didn’t know I was a blogger.