One of our favourite games is ‘Either/Or’, which is inspired by the famous conundrum of whether you would rather fight a horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses.
Our version is, naturally, more food based. For example, if you could only have one thing to accompany your desserts for the rest of your life, would it be ice cream or custard? The options need careful consideration; cheesecake and hot custard does not sound great, and Christmas pudding and ice cream may be an untenable break with convention. And, don’t think you can dodge the issue by going for the middle ground and plumping for cream.
Of course, life isn’t like that – a binary choice. Thankfully there is nuance. You may choose food to match your mood and, of course, you can have cream – which, as it happens, goes rather nicely with both cheesecake and Christmas pudding.
This was the way Cat’s mind whirred one drizzly June evening as she surveyed the menu at Newport’s Saint Pizza. Since the closure of Pizza Express and Prezzo, the town has lacked a mid-range Italian. Thankfully the rather delightful Toto has literally filled the yawning gap left by Olivo, and Saint Pizza is picking up the rest of the slack – with populist Pizza Hut maintaining its position in the leisure warehouse at Coppins.
We first encountered Saint Pizza’s funky venue at the tail-end of last year, it being one of several new businesses which emerged peeping through the rubble of the pandemic’s impact on the Island’s towns. We pressed our noses to the window excited by the sight of an upcycled scooter table, a flaming wood-fired oven and ubiquitous ‘slaw and loaded fries on the menu. And, having enjoyed a couple of delicious takeaways, we were finally legally allowed to eat inside.
Taking our seats at the scooter, we decided to have a pizza and pasta dish between us, to cover all bases – if you’ll pardon the pun. And here’s where the horse-sized duck comes in. Except, of course, the pizza toppings are not mutually exclusive. Getting creative, as the menu exhorted, Cat chose her base notes: sourdough, tomato and mozzarella. Meat next, or prawns in this case, then veggies. Mushrooms and sundried tomatoes were a given for Cat, plus goats cheese. Tenderstem broccoli or spinach though? Flip-flop, flip-flop went Cat’s brain. She requested both. Why the heck not? Choosing is losing.
Cat’s dining companion channelled their inner Matt, choosing juicy homemade meatballs in a rich marinara sauce “oozing in classic Italian flavours”, and served with spaghetti.
The dinners arrived in quick time, as one might expect from a restaurant that cut its teeth on takeaway trade. Cat’s pizza was well-laden; toppings all present and correct (yes, The Sloop, we still haven’t forgotten your desultory effort).
Fitting perfectly on its wooden paddle, the pizza had been sectioned into manageable slices. And, unlike one vitreous crust at a now-closed venue, Saint Pizza’s doughy pizza edge was not so brittle as to require post-dinner dental work.
So, levering up a soft and yielding segment, Cat tucked in. The puckered sundried tomatoes punctuated the pizza with their own brand of concentrated tomatoeiness, playing a duet on Cat’s tongue with the earthy goats cheese. The plentiful prawns were your actual succulent crustaceans; none of those reformed ersatz ‘prawnies’ she’d had recently in a mainland korma. The vegetables added colour, flavour and vitamins, making this ‘fast food’ dinner a nutritional – and tasty – option.
Spaghetti and meatballs was just the comfort food Cat’s companion needed, and it hit the appropriate spot. The rich, flavoursome sauce cuddled the succulent meatballs in a welcome homely embrace. Part of the fun of spaghetti is rhythmically and deftly coiling it onto one’s fork; Saint Pizza’s version had shorter lengths (possibly broken), denying Cat’s companion the opportunity to splash some of that tomatoey marinara down their vintage top – which, from a laundry perspective, might have been for the best.
With so much gossip to catch up on, Cat’s pizza was half untouched, so the rest was boxed for the next day, when she and Matt enjoyed it for lunch. It travelled well; remaining moist and tasty despite a night in chilled cardboard.
Saint Pizza has done a grand job in creating an attractive venue with a really good pizza offering, plus some excellent and imaginative pasta dishes. The obligatory ‘slaw and loaded fries have disappeared from the menu, but now that it is an eat-in place, we can concentrate on the robust mains. So the dilemma here is pasta or pizza? We’d be happy to recommend both.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Choice of bases
- Decent variety of toppings
- Funky environment