Having been crowned Junior’s Best Family Restaurant in the Junior Design Awards 2011, it is safe to say that Pizza Express should be firmly on the radar of any family seeking delicious modern Italian cuisine as well as an enlightened attitude towards family dining.
Now, here at Junior we are very much in favour of indulgence, but with the ghosts of New Year healthy eating resolutions lingering on and flimsy flesh-baring springtime attire blooming in stores, it is also nice to know that nipping out for a bite to eat needn’t always involve the calorie equivalent of a full Christmas dinner.
So it was with inquisitive minds and rumbling stomachs that the Junior team set off to sample Pizza Express’ new and improved healthy eating proposition; the Leggera. In spite of our high esteem in the regular menu, a smidgen of scepticism crept in – can a pizza with less than 500 calories really compete with the deliciously doughy, topping laden offerings we know and love?
Upon arrival we were offered a brief explanation of the concept from one of the restaurant's famed Pizzaiolos: A half-sized portion of pizza dough is stretched out to the same size as a regular pizza, giving an incredibly light, crisp base which can then be loaded with light mozzarella and a generous helping of other toppings thus achieving the holy grail of culinary offerings; a healthier pizza that doesn’t compromise on flavour.
No sooner had our host wished us buon appetito than we tucked in with great gusto, which was when we discovered the hole. In the interest of accuracy, it is my duty to report that the pizza has a hole in the centre, not an enormous hole, just a little one stuffed with a peppery rocket salad and punchy slivers of a salted and aged ricotta. Hole aside, the extra-thin base was found to be most enjoyable with a satisfying crunch and authentic stone-baked hint of charring on the underside. Of the flavours on offer the Padana Leggera came out on top with the perfect contrast between sweetly caramelised red onions, unctuously creamy goat’s cheese and a bite of bitterness from the spinach. The American offering was not dissimilar to its cousin, a stalwart of the Pizza Express menu, topped with thick discs of pepperoni, while the American Hot benefited from the added kick of jalapeno peppers.
Having happily devoured the lot and sated any sugar cravings with the gooey offerings of the dessert menu the verdict was in; the Leggera is a skinny pizza that could easily pass itself off as an indulgent treat. The quality and flavour of the toppings coupled with the nicely crisp base ensured that no diner was left feeling deprived and the health conscious guests amongst us found it to be a welcome break from the supremacy of the salad. So perhaps the old adage is true after all, a little bit of what you fancy really does do you good.