As the sun beamed over Balham on the first summer-looking Saturday in months, my partner and I decided to pop into the Honest Italian for a late lunch.
Considering the unfamiliarly pleasant weather, the best place to perch in the intimate venue seemed to be the high chairs overlooking Balham High Road.
This is a chilled, family-oriented pizza joint in the days which admittedly has the potential to transform into a cosy little date place come nightfall – thanks to the sleek, minimalistic Scandi design and the wood-fired pizza oven roaring away in the background.
“Fresh, honest ingredients” seems to be the restaurant’s main plug. With Caminata, Franco Manca and Pizza Express but a five minute walk away, the Honest Italian has held its own for over four years by staying true to this simple and effective focus.To start, we shared the antipasti misto which included a generous selection of meats, Italian cheeses and chargrilled vegetables, served with two sizeable chunks of bread, thankfully lighter than they looked. The salami and prosciutto were delicate and delicious, the huge basil leaves tasting like they had just been plucked from an Italian herb garden. And the veg was charred and olive-oiled to perfection.
And so to pizza. The Contadina combined moreish chunks of goats cheese sprinkled over a homemade tomato and pesto sauce, topped with what felt like a salad with in its own right – cherry tomatoes and copious amounts of that fresh-from-the-plant basil and rocket. The zesty toppings complemented the crisp, thin base on which they sat – as light and refreshing as a pizza can get.Meanwhile a classic capricciosa married slightly underwhelming smoked ham with egg and mushroom on a mellow tomato sauce. The result was less striking, bland even, although the slightly sweet fior di latte mozzarella lifted the pizza, its nimble base also a redeeming feature: the crusts were in fact cooked to perfection, leaving a well-tuned dough to crunch ratio.
Note: these pizzas are huge, spilling over the gigantic shield-like plates they are served on. You would expect them to be with an average price of £12.50 – they could easily be shared with a starter or salad. Service was attentive but laissez faire; suitable for a place like this.
The Honest Italian is what it says on the tin – a local, independent pizzeria with a focus of fresh and quality ingredients. A perfect place we imagined to take the kids on slow weekend afternoon – not that we had any in tow.