A big fat new pizzeria for Brighton’s London Road
“I can’t believe I’m eating on London Road”, my husband kept saying. He remembers it from the days it was a druggy hangout. My own inauspicious introduction to the thoroughfare was when I came down from London to see comedian Terry Garoghan of Brighton the Musical fame. He sang: “You need some food, you need some clothes, you think you might try London Road, DON’T GO!” to a Yazoo tune.
But look what’s been happening lately. Various smarter pubs and shops have been opening and in the autumn they were joined by independent pizza restaurant Fatto A Mano. After good reports from friends (spoiler alert – kids eat free!) and seeing that tempting wood-fired oven in the window we gave it a try.
I must admit I struggle with the name. It means ‘handmade’ in Italian but when I look at it, all I can see is ‘Fat Man’ – not a welcome thought when you’re about to gorge on melted cheese.
Unusually (for the UK at least) the menu is split fairly 50\50 into ‘red and white’ depending on whether the pizzas come with or without a tomato base. There wasn’t a list of ingredients to add individually but they don’t mind a bit of swapping around as I went for the Capricciosa without the meats, getting extra artichokes, mushroom and olives to compensate. I particularly liked that the olives were whole pitted ones not the stingy halves you usually get for toppings.
The pizzas are not thin and crispy but ‘pillowy’, as they are in Naples, home of pizza, they explain on the menu. I have eaten pizza in Naples, and excellent it was too but given that crossing the road in the city means taking your life in your hands – I mean scooters even mount the pavements to overtake – I was too engrossed in calming my shredded nerves with wine every time I got to a restaurant there to remember the details.
What the pizzas certainly are at Fatto A Mano is gratifyingly huge. My husband went for a calzone but mine in its unfolded glory came hanging over the plate. The rocket and parmesan side salad was also a better size than in most pizza restaurants.
We shared an ice cream for dessert and the muddy must-have of pistachio had an interesting salty flavour while the chocolate my husband favours was very rich. Doughnut strips drizzled with chocolate were proving popular on the tables around us.
You can’t book, except for tables of over six, so we dived in early, around 6.30, when the music was lively and there were several young families winding up their meals – no wonder when pizzas and ice cream are free for under-tens! Queues started forming soon after.
We’ve since gone back for an after-cinema feed around 9.30 when we started out at the counter then were moved to a proper table as the place started clearing out. I had the butternut squash and goats cheese salad that time which was also very good and we did a bit of swapsies with a pizza between us.
The restaurant can absorb more people than at first glance, especially if you don’t mind eating up at the counter, and some of the queuers on our first visit turned out to be waiting for takeaways. The friendly staff members also operate a call back system so it’s worth ducking in to bag a spot on the list then waiting for a text while you do a bit of shopping.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Families; a bite before or after a film at the nearby Duke of York’s; a friends’ get together; solo dining at the counter.
Not for: a romantic date. There aren’t any booths or really intimate areas, unless you count the tiny vestibule in front of the unisex loo on the mezzanine level where I got momentarily, embarassingly trapped with a very fit young man.
££: Prices are very reasonable, with pizzas from £5 to £9, starters £3.50 to £6.50, puds £4.50-£5 and pizzas and ice cream from the children’s menu free for under-10s with paying adults. Prosecco-based cocktails are a fiver.
Fatto A Mano, 77 London Road, Brighton BN1 4JF. 01273 600621 fattoamanopizza.com
As from Sept 2016 there’s a new Fatto A Mano at 65-67 Church Road, Hove BN3 2BD 01273 325400