It was a warm Sunday afternoon – you know the kind where you’re too hot with a jumper on, but too cold when you take it off? After spending the afternoon by Tower Hill watching the marathon and soaking up the atmosphere of London in the sun, Dom and I headed south of the river to Balham to visit The Honest Italian for some authentic Italian pizza and wine. What better way to spend a spring Sunday afternoon in my favourite city?
As we stepped out of Balham tube station, the restaurant was just down the road. It wasn’t too busy either – which meant it was the perfect place for a lazy, late afternoon Sunday lunch. We’d been craving pizza for a while now, but didn’t want to settle for the bog standard Dominos. The Honest Italian couldn’t be any further from Dominos if it tried.
While Balham is no stranger to a decent pizza place, The Honest Italian boasts Balham’s first wood-fired pizza oven (and uses sustainable wood might I add), priding itself on offering customers a truly authentic Italian experience. The setting was relaxed, intimate, and we felt at ease as soon as we arrived. There was an outside seating area too which would be perfect for a summers evening to watch the world go by with a pizza and a glass of wine.
After perusing the menu (we did so for about thirty minutes as our conversations kept wandering), we struggled to choose from their decent selection of hand-stretched pizzas. With choices ranging from the base level ‘Margherita’ to the more adventurous ‘Capricciosa’ which had artichoke hearts, egg, mushrooms, olives, – the lot – on it.
Sadly I wasn’t feeling that adventurous, but I was up for something a bit different. I was feeling brave though, enough to order the ‘Quattro Staggioni’ pizza which, amongst salami, smoked ham and mushrooms, also had anchovies and capers on. I’d never tried either before and had no idea what they tasted like – the only thing I did know is that an anchovy is a small fish right? And a caper? No bloody idea.
Edit: Upon googling ‘what is a caper?’ I now know capers are pickled flower buds of the Capparis shrub. Interesting.
I feel like my courage rubbed off on Dom, as he ordered the ‘Carciofi’ (although he was too much of a wimp to try and pronounce it). This had artichoke hearts, parma ham, and the restaurant’s signature tomato and pesto sauce.
Within two minutes of ordering our meals, a side salad and a bottle of white, we saw the chef personally hand stretching the dough that was to become our pizza bases. Behind him I could see the huge wood fired pizza oven, as the heat waves and bright orange flickers of flames danced around in the background.
It was fascinating to watch, and reassuring to know that the pizzas were made fresh, from scratch in front of customers. With the sun blazing through the front window, I almost felt like I was in Italy for a moment.
We sipped wine and chatted while we waited for our pizzas to be baked. The smells that filled the restaurant were incredible, and it wasn’t long at all until our pizzas were brought over. They were blinkin’ huge!
So much so that I struggled to fit mine all in a picture lol. And even though I hadn’t eaten all afternoon, I still only managed to eat just over half!
The base was thin and crispy, while still being soft enough not to resemble a biscuit (I’m not the only one who hates when pizza crusts are toooo crispy right?). The thin base meant the pizzas were still filling, but didn’t leave you feeling stodgy or bloated – perfect excuse for a few beers after.
Both pizzas were loaded with fresh toppings – you know it’s a good pizza when every mouthful has a generous amount of topping on right? Each had a healthy portion of mozzarella each too (by healthy I mean a great, enjoyable amount of course).
With bellies stuffed full of pizza, we put the rest in a box and enjoyed the rest of our wine and the chilled out atmosphere. We ended up staying for nearly two hours – the staff were friendly, and didn’t rush us out at all.
Even while we were chilling afterwards, the staff were busy with Deliveroo and Just Eat orders – which I gather keep the staff busy on Sundays.
We left the restaurant happy bunnies – and with our late night Sunday snacks already sorted. I’d definitely recommend giving The Honest Italian a visit if you’re in the area. You’re guaranteed some high quality, authentic pizza, a cosy and relaxed setting, and great, friendly service. The prices are reasonable too, considering it’s in London.
Would I go back? That would be one big fat mozzarella-topped yes.
Also available on JustEat and Deliveroo.
*this post was written in exchange for free meals. All views are of course my own.