When I made the difficult decision to leave my beloved Brixton and move to East London, I had to leave behind Franco Manca – one of the few places in London to get an authentic Neapolitan pizza. In the eternal battle to stay slim, I try not to eat pizza that much, which means that when I do, I want proper pizza. And I don’t want to trek to other side of London to get it.
Luckily for me, about 20 paces from my front door there’s a pizza restaurant and wine shop called Sweet Thursday, named after the 1954 book by John Steinbeck. The brainchild of De Beauvoir locals, Harry Davies, owner of the De Beauvoir deli, and Rich Haines and Rosie Wesemenn who started The Scolt Head, Sweet Thursday is the sort of restaurant every neighbourhood needs.
Casual, cosy and complete with a wine shop at the front, Sweet Thursday is instantly welcoming. It’s Valentine’s Day and thank god it’s filled with families and groups of friends, rather than just couples trying their hardest to be romantic. The slightly earnest and very lovely waiter tells us that tonight there is a ‘lottery’ – if the pizzaiolo makes you a heart-shaped pizza, you get a free fragolino prosecco cocktail. I usually abhor all things Valentine’s related, but it’s a nice touch and I find myself wanting to win, although admittedly mainly for the free booze.
We both order the king prawns wrapped in pancetta (which is actually parma ham), roasted with garlic and chillies to start. They’re ok, but personally I don’t think they need the parma ham – the thickness and saltiness of the ham hides the sweet, succulent meat of the prawn which should be allowed to shine. For mains, I contemplate the fish stew with squid, sea bass, clams, prawns and cannellini beans, but quickly realise that I’ll have serious pizza envy if I do, and with an actual pizzaiolo from Naples, I’d be crazy not to test the goods.
The menu isn’t too extensive, which I like – it means the ingredients are fresh and there’s a focus on quality. There’s nothing worse than a menu longer than your arm that takes four hours to read and tries to please everyone. The menu ranges from classic pizzas such as Marinara (with no cheese), Margherita and Crudo with mozzarella, tomato, parma ham, rocket and parmesan, to more unusual choices such as Salsiccia with fennel sausage, broccoli, chillies, cream and mozzarella. In the end we order La Porchetta with porchetta (roast pork), rosemary, mozzarella, cream and fennel, and La Barchetta with mozzarella, creamy mushrooms, speck, artichokes, rocket and parmesan.
To my delight I win the heart-shaped pizza! I never win anything! The waiter brings me a fragolino prosecco cocktail which is, quite frankly, a thing of beauty. It has a light strawberry flavour which isn’t too overpowering or sweet. One doesn’t feel enough but with the litre carafe of wine sitting on the table, I refrain from ordering another. But it’s the pizza base which is the star of the show. I usually leave my crust (criminal, I know) in an attempt to not walk out of the restaurant feeling like a bloated hippo, but it’s impossible. The soft, chewy dough is some of the best I’ve had and I. can’t. stop. devouring. it. I love the porchetta topping but if I had to nitpick, with no tomato, I feel the meat, cheese and bread combo needs something to lift it a bit. The speck and artichoke ‘little boat’ is even tastier and neither pizza lasts long.
To finish we have a strawberry cheesecake and one of my all-time favourite desserts, affogato al caffè – vanilla ice cream ‘drowned’ in coffee. The cheesecake is soft and creamy with a fresh strawberry pureé and ginger biscuit base, and neither dessert is too big or heavy after our pizzas. On the way out we pick up a bottle Calusari Pinot Noir from Romania and head home to promptly fall asleep in a pizza-induced coma.
– A three course meal for two with a bottle of wine and a tip costs approx £80
– They do takeaway too, but not delivery