BY PALOMA LACY
Thirty years ago, Streatham was known for having some of the best Italian food around.
Then everyone started cooking pasta at home and the public appetite for the cuisine diminished.
This love seems to have been rekindled in the past five years, with a handful of pizzerias springing up there.
Pizza is one of those dishes most have tried to make at home or even go through a phase of making regularly, before it becomes a bit of hassle and the flour clouds start to loom over.
I, for the most part, choose to leave to leave it to those who know what they are doing, so had been keen to visit Don Luigi in Streatham Hill.
Located on the site of another popular pizzeria – Addome – Maria Mugnano and Alessio De Laureto have opened this second restaurant to share the food of Southern Italy.
Their original restaurant is in Brixton. Self-styled as a pizzeria, Don Luigi is so much more, with starters like Steak Tartare on the menu.
My husband was taken with this dish, particularly given the inclusion of truffle honey. Raw and seasoned beef if not everyone’s taste – and certainly not to my palate – but to many, it’s a delicacy.
Tempura vegetables received my vote – the lightest of batter covering a seasonal selection.
Interestingly, tuna sashimi made an appearance on the menu, leaving me to wonder if the chef has either experience, or just a love, of Japanese food. His particular penchant appears to be tuna as it’s quite the feature of the menu.
The other starters are unlikely to cause such surprise – burrata and Parma ham, musselsin garlic, parsley and white wine sauce and calamari.
Two dishes stood out for me – arancini with pumpkin, spicy nduja and cheese – these risotto balls always make for an excellent starter.
The other was the kind of plate that works well to share with a companion over a glass of wine or two. Selection of Italian cheeses, chutneys, pickled veg and rosemary focaccia.
I wanted to try the much-talked-about pizza for main course and was slightly alarmed when I caught sight of the size of it.
However, Alessio assured me the 72-hour sourdough fermentation process created the lightest of bases that was easily consumed by one person, at one sitting.
I had my toddler’s help so decided to go for it. We went for simple and most importantly of all, toppings without chilli as the little one is not quite there yet.
I try to introduce her to a different ingredient when we dine out – today’s was rocket as salad leaves are still a bit of an alien concept to her.
Choosing Parma ham pizza was a careful ploy in the hope she’d munch through the rocket to get to her much-loved ham.
Did it work? Well, sort of. She ate more rocket than she’s done before but I’d say she’s not quite the fan, yet.
This pizza was so good that there’s only one other place locally to match it. A burnished and bubbly crust from the wood-fired oven, that stays as soft by the end of the meal as it was at the start, is the test and this passed with flying colours.
The menu boasts a good range of pasta – a few classics such as carbonara and amatricana but served with more unusual pasta shapes, paccheri and ravioli, than you might ordinarily expect it to be.
Most pleasing of all is that Don Luigi serves only fresh pasta. Madafaldine (long shaped pasta) took my husband back into truffle heaven, with this wild mushroom and sausage sauce.
Don Luigi is at 17-21 Sternhold Avenue, Streatham, SW2 4PA.
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