Without a doubt, Jamie Oliver is one of my all-time favourite celebrity chefs. The Naked Chef was the first cookbook I ever bought, and I've since collected pretty much all of his other books. I love his London restaurant, Fifteen, but I'm a more frequent visitor to Jamie's Italian, a chain of affordable restaurants that feature traditional, rustic Italian dishes The nearest restaurant to us is in St Albans, and right next door is Jamie's Pizzeria, a standalone pizzeria serving handmade pizzas and yummy accompaniments. Last weekend Ian, the boys and I were invited along to review the new pizzeria and see what they have to offer.
If you've ever been to a Jamie's Italian or Jamie's Pizzeria before, then you'll know that the buildings are rather stunning. Cambridge is my favourite; the restaurant is in The Old Library, a gorgeous grade II listed building with pillars and a domed ceiling. At Jamie's Pizzeria in St Albans the building is mixture of exposed brickwork and stripped back wood with splashes of colour and photos of Italy, food and chefs adorning the walls.
We visited the pizzeria for lunch on Sunday and when we arrived there was only one other party dining. We had a reservation anyway, but I expect that you'd be able to get a table even if you didn't have a booking, as only one other party arrived during the time that we were there. That made me feel slightly less mortified when Little N decided to have a meltdown as as soon as we sat down! I'm not sure what's going on with him at the moment, but he is having so many tantrums. The kids activity pack soon proved to be a great distraction and he soon chilled out again.
Our waiter was really polite and attentive, and when I asked about vegan options he went and fetched the chef who came over to explain what choices were available. They didn't have a separate vegan menu, but were really flexible and able to adapt many of the dishes so I had quite a lot of choice. We ordered drinks - beer for Ian, Aperol Spritz for me and juice for the boys - and pondered what to choose.
To start we all shared some hand-stretched garlic bread with olive & sun-dried tomato tapenade and a bowl of marinated olives. When I first met Ian he didn't like olives at all, and funnily enough he grew to like them after trying some at a previous visit to Jamie's Italian. The olives this time were just as good as ever, and the garlic bread was delicious. The tapenade was amazing, I could have just eaten that with a spoon!
For our pizzas, Ian chose the Chilli Freak, which as you'd imagine is a spicy one. It has chilli freak sauce, mozzarella, fresh chilli, Bella Lodi cheese and mint. I had the Funghi Misti, which had roasted herby mushrooms, chervil & tarragon. It usually comes with mozzarella and porcini mushroom sauce but I skipped the cheese and switched the sauce for a tomato base to make it vegan. Both of our pizzas were delicious, The hand-stretched base was just the perfect amount of chewiness and crispiness, and the toppings really packed a punch of flavour.
Both of the boys had the cutest little margherita pizzas from the kids' menu. Theirs also came with a shake-me salad on the side, which had lettuce, cucumber, carrots, green beans and grapes. Of course, Little N didn't eat his salad, because fruit and vegetables are poison to a three-year old didn't you know, but J demolished nearly all of his! The kids' menus at the Jamie's brand of restaurants are simply brilliant; there are only so many sausages and mash or fishfingers and chips that children can take! It's great for them to have something more interesting and wholesome.
By the time we finished our pizzas, Ian and I were stuffed so we skipped pudding. As tempting as the brownie, tiramisu and ice creams may have been, we just couldn't manage another mouthful. Carb overload! The boys both enjoyed some chocolate ice-cream though before we got our bill and headed home with full bellies. Our entire bill for the four of us, including drinks, came to just under £60 which is fantastic value for money.
If you fancy trying some proper handmade pizzas, then Jamie's Pizzeria in St Albans is the place to go. You can also find Jamie's Italian on Facebook and Twitter.