These days if someone mentions Clapham it’s to complain about its imminent gentrification, the scourge of yuppies, and the rising house prices. However, this is an unfair reflection on the rest of the neighbourhood and the hidden gems it has to offer. Pi’s pizzeria in Battersea Rise is located just off the stylish Northcote Road and is in the home of the former Scoffers cake shop – a good omen if there ever was one.
I visited on a cold, grey, Thursday evening and was offered a warm respite after a long hard-working day. The ceiling of the first room is covered with a perfect timeless summer garden dotted with warming yellow lights as a vase of red roses sits neatly on the adjacent bar top. It definitely offers a romantic vibe for pizza if that is what you’re after – but equally it is accommodating for a friendly catch up with cosy long benches for bigger groups. I chose my old friend K as my dining partner and I feel the crowd was a fair split between dates and friends. As I was waiting for her to arrive, I was mistaken for the other half of a blind date – clearly a romantic setting, indeed. Upon entering the main dining room, the illusion of a magical fairy garden continued as a tree is posited in the centre of the room with its branches spreading authentically but not obtrusively for us to admire. So authentic that K enquired whether the tree was real, and that was before we had ordered the wine. There is very much the feeling of an eternal summer vibe with a slanted almost greenhouse style roof which I imagine would be lovely during the day.
The stylish influence from its owner the former fashion designer Rosie Whaley, welcomingly distinguishes Pi from being yet another Italian pizza place. The interior is warming with a vibrant mix of colours: yellow sofas, a sharp blue tile wall, and the patterned throw rugs that cover the wooden benches. But it all works in a very authentic way.
I’m trying my hand at vegetarianism for the umpteenth time and I was not short of options. I loved my starter of burrata with caramelised black fig paired with a soft white baguette. Burrata is, in my opinion, the perfect cheese. It offers indulgence but freshness in a way that it almost feels healthy. The addition of figs (a fruit)! reinforced this delusion and it was light, fresh and comforting. An all-round delight. I would never choose figs myself as I associate them with being a little too sweet for my liking but tempered with the creaminess of the burrata and the softness of the bread it was the perfect fusion. K’s pancetta and spinach arancini on the other hand was slightly dry in its consistency – it almost felt like it was missing something to hold it all together.
Then came the main event: if you’re as indecisive as K or me you’ll be thrilled by the option of 12 And 20” pizzas divided into half’s or thirds. We chose half and half.
K and I both chose the roasted aubergine pizza seasoned with garlic, chilli, balsamic, and aged parmesan, and it was most definitely both of our preferred half. There was something meaty about the aubergine that paired it well with the melted parmesan and just the right amount of balsamic. The flavours were pronounced, but not overpowering. And the crust was the best K had ever had. The whole menu offers a much-needed revamp of a typical pizza menu and a lot of thought has clearly gone into the pairings: Lebanese lamb, Turkish yoghurt, jalapeno jam, and nduja were all featured ingredients on the menu in amongst time-old classics such as our good friend the Margherita.
I’m always wary of white pizza bases but feeling adventurous I opted for the rosary goats’ cheese, crispy kale, and caramelised red onion for my second half. My risky behaviour paid off though the red onion could easily have gone amiss. I encouraged K to try the Serrano ham with white truffle oil as she is normally reticent of anything with truffle oil but her fears were overcome as she said it was exactly the right measure.
I rarely have room for dessert after a pizza, but K has a particular sweet tooth and insisted we shared some. And I’m glad she did as it turned out to be the stand out course for both of us. Our waiter helpfully recommended the tiramisu and salted caramel gelato which we felt obliged to try. Salted caramel seems to be the flavour which never fell out of fashion, but this gelato in particular balanced the salt and caramel flavours perfectly without tasting too rich. All the gelatos are allegedly low in fat – even better. Similarly, the tiramisu avoided the common flaw that so many tiramisu’s fall prey too – that of being too creamy or alcoholic – it was light and hit the spot in my criterion of an excellent tiramisu: a kick of coffee, an airy feeling of lightness, and a hint of alcohol and cream. All of the above but not in excess. That’s kind of a metaphor for the meal at Pi itself – lots of lovely fresh rich ingredients – but not in excess.
The menu – with its varied eclectic choices coupled with some classics – has clearly been carefully thought through and balanced to perfection.
There is something rare but impressive about being able to deliver the comfort of a home meal with the portion size of one too. If it weren’t for the friendly and attentive service, I would have thought I was at home. We were certainly comfortable enough being one of the last to leave.
For a very reasonable £12.50 an incredibly generous main for one is a very good deal indeed.
If you are in search of a well-priced authentic pizza which won’t leave you out of pocket or feeling overly guilty – head to Pi for a magical evening.
The original Pi restaurant is in Winchester, so if you ever find yourself in Hampshire and fancy a great pizza you know where to go!
Pi, 4-6a Battersea Rise, London, W11 1ED, England.
Tel: +44 (0)207 978 5542
Pi is a 10-minute walk from Clapham Junction station. It is open Tuesday from 5:00pm to 10:00pm; Wednesday from 11:45am to 10:30pm; Thursday to Saturday from 11:45am to 11:00pm and Sunday from 11:45am to 10:00pm. The restaurant is closed all day Monday.
Type of Restaurant: Artisan Pizza Restaurant
Price Band: Low
Insider Tip: Try to sit under the tree and definitely order the burrata.
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10
Maighna Nanu is a London based freelance journalist.
Photographs courtesy of Pi