A Pizza the Action
You’ve got to love Ciro’s, the basement pizza restaurant in swanky Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge. It’s been there since 1978 and most of my London friends have been regulars for as long as they’ve been pizza eaters. It’s dark and intimate, suffused with a mellow, wrinkle reducing red light, the walls are bedecked with the photos and autographs of pretty much every A-lister you can think of, from Sly Stallone to Bill Clinton, there’s live music from 9pm every night and, the main attraction, it serves London’s very best pizza. It’s always busy, buzzy and, without fail, great fun.
As equally unforgettable as this place is, is its owner, Ciro Orsini. Long haired, leather clad, heavily tattooed, pierced and with every finger beringed, he sports not just a warm smile with a charming gap between his two top front teeth but also an internationally enviable address book. He knows everyone and everyone knows him. Despite his somewhat shamanic tough biker look, he’s an unusually kind and spiritual man, who travels the world and does many good works for humans and animals. Originally from Naples, he chose not to go into the family business there, but set up on his own, which has been supremely successful, with Ciro’s’ in London, LA, Delhi, Kiev, Riga, Bahrain, Lahore and Beijing. This man has personality plus and it is reflected in his restaurants. Without being remotely airy fairy or hippyesque, the love vibe radiates all around.
The credentials of man and business are impressive but even so, the Knightsbridge basement is unpretentious, unponcy and straightforward. Whether you’re Kate Moss or Blogs from Suburbia, you get the same treatment, the same attention and the same yummy food.
For some unfathomable reason, I always seem to wear my highest heels when I go to Ciro’s. Not so practical bearing in mind the steep stairs leading from street level into the restaurant, particularly considering that the convivial atmosphere invariably leads to a glass or two of wine more than I would normally have, topped off by the glass of liqueur on the house which we are often presented with! But you know, us old fogeys have to keep up with the young and pretty crowd who frequent the place, and it wouldn’t do to let the standards flag, now would it? Consequently, much unsteady tottering is of the order.
We’ve given ourselves away, of course, by booking a table at 7.30. when the place is still entirely empty, which, in fact, is not unpleasant, as we sit there in our little leather banquetted niche. An hour later and the place is heaving, mostly with groups of friends but also with the odd couple here and there. Tonight, Diva perform on the small stage, a white male guitarist and a statuesque black woman with a voice of pure velvet, belting out some great songs from the days before most of the clientele were even born. We remember them well, those tunes. The rhythm is strong and the Lovely Husband and I know all the lyrics, so we enthusiastically mouth along, do a lot of bottom dancing on our chairs and applaud with verve and gusto.
I find myself wondering whether bottom dancing actually burns any calories. I’m kind of hoping so, because we’re certainly getting stuck in to the food.
First, we share a Ciro’s Special, which, according to the menu, is Jermaine Jackson’s favourite. It’s freshly mashed avocado, chopped marinated tomatoes and basil with a touch of fresh garlic, served on a bed of baby fresh spinach, fresh squeezed lime, cherry tomatoes topped with rocket, with virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s a good sized portion, fresh and suitably avocadoey, and we scoop it up with some simply gorgeous crusty, herby pizza bread. Yum and double yum!
Then the star attraction, and the thing we’ve most been looking forward to, the sublime pizza. Mine is, as always, an American Hot with extra chilli. Mozarella, lots of pepperoni slices, fresh tomato sauce, green peppers, all on a light, crispy base which, so I read, was also Dave Allen’s favourite, God rest his funny soul. It’s just the right size too, not an enormous wagon wheel of a thing but just that little bit bigger than I should sensibly eat all by myself. Still, I do. I cant help it, it’s so good. The Lovely Husband chooses a very similar one with only subtle differences. His is the Puttanesca, the prostitute’s pizza, the naughty man! This with its mozzarella, fresh tomato sauce, olives, green peppers, fresh garlic, pepperoni, anchovies and crushed hot chillies, is also actor Amand Assante’s favourite. Say no more, nudge nudge, wink wink. Oooooh, and it goes down a treat!
We bottom dance some more to the dulcet tones of Diva, drink our wine, chat and are enjoying every minute. Then the sweet tooth strikes. Surprisingly, here at this place of all places, they have a dessert menu with pictures of the puds on offer, something you usually see only in the lower end eateries. It doesn’t put us off though. These sweet treats, covering all the popular favourites, may not be as wonderfully homemade as our starter and main course but hey, you can’t really go wrong with a Cookies and Cream Cheesecake, can you? At least we have the decency to share a portion. Okay, so it’s not the best cheesecake I have ever eaten, but it’s not bad at all and, before you know it, it’s gone.
An excellent Americano and those lovely liqueurs on the house top off our feast. But the music is still going and it’s a while until we can tear ourselves away, we’re having such a good time.
Eventually, we ask for the bill which comes to £88.78 including a bottle of wine, coffee and service charge. Granted, that’s a bit more expensive than your average High Street pizza chain but bearing in mind the location, the size of the portions, the deliciousness of the food, the fantastic ambience and the really very good musical entertainment, it’s worth every penny, say I.
Apologies for the red fuzzy quality of the photos which is due to the mellow hue at Ciro’s.
Ciro’s Pizza Pomodoro, 51 Beauchamp Place, London SW3 1NY, Tel.: 020 7589 1278, www.pomodoro.co.uk
What I wore
Salmon and purple silk shirt by Tommy Hilfiger, black Gap 1969 skinny jeans, Hermes belt, Accessorise necklace, salmon high heeled Sam Edelman sandals, Paparazzi ‘magazine’ bag.
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