Arriving early for a fancy dinner meeting, I took a stroll about the London area near its business district known as Spitalfields. On my walkabout, I spotted a modern-looking retail space at the bottom of an office building that caught my attention with the name Pizza Union. It was an attractive place with spacious outdoor seating and long wooden tables inside. However, it’s signage carried two Pizza Snob red flags: the words “pizza bar” and “superfast.” I quickly wrote it off in my mind as the British version of one of those dreadful assembly line pizza establishments that have invaded America.
With no plan to return, by chance I found myself there a day later and noticed something that I did not see the night before. The pizza folks were eating outside on the patio looked thin, crispy and downright inviting! Saying to myself “What the heck,” I thought I would give it a try for my early evening dinner.
One of four Pizza Unions currently in London, this location was sure quick busy at 18:00! When I approached the counter to place my order, I notices that they described their pie as “Fire-Baked Roman Style.” Now that created even further positive vibes since this was my fave style of pizza when I visited Italy. I selected the straight-ahead Margherita which came in the standard size of 12-inch (I guess that the metric system doesn’t apply to pizza?) for the extremely fair sum of £3.95. It sure turned out to be a lot of pizza for that price.
As a pizza purist, I did reject their offer to sell me some dipping sauces while I was at the counter. After placing my order, I received my first ever pizza-place beeper to let me know when my pie was ready for pickup. It only took three or four minutes for the big wood-burning oven to fire up my pie and my #56 was promptly summoned.
I took the silver tray holding my freshly-cooked pizza outside where I commandeered a large picnic-style table all to myself. Although it did look rather appealing taste wise, my pie was haphazardly cut with no slice symmetry whatsoever in addition to not being cut all the way through. Eating thus became an exercise of tearing off odd shapes of pizza. Throwing in some strange looking pizza bubbles and a few miniscule basil leaves, this made for one ugly-looking pizza.
But, getting down to what really matters, the more I ate of this strange-looking pizza, the more I realized just how much I liked it. The lovingly-thin crust was fabulously crisp—almost to the point of being burnt like a classic New Jersey bar pie. The tomato sauce and cheese were both deliciously good and light, just the way I like them. It was all quite a delight indeed, and I enjoyed every bite.
Some words to the wise? They could do a little better by putting their pies together a little more orderly. And forget about the dipping sauce – there’s enough good taste on this pizza that it doesn’t need to be spoiled. And, if America feels it needs to have fast pizza, then let’s bring Pizza Union to our side of the ocean. This place puts to shame the ones that I have been to in the USA.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ****Near Perfection
25 Sandy’s Row
London E17HW, UK
44 20 7247 5116