Old Monsieur Charles-Guillaume Etienne is apparently the man we have to thank for coining the maxim, On n’est jamais servi si bien que par soi-même.
(Here he goes again, comes the collective groan)
Bear with me. I mention M. Whatsisname because those words have come to us, not literally but certainly in spirit, as the adage: ‘If you want something done properly, do it yourself.’
It’ll all become clear soon.
Anyone familiar with Penarth will know the kiosk next to what used to be Queen’s Café; a tiny building at the head of the shortcut slope to the train station, it has for decades gone through many incarnations but remained constant in this- fast food. The great, the good and the woozy of Penarth have made the most of its proximity to The Railway pub, to load up on such delicacies as The Inexcusable Doner and The Inadvisable Half-Pounder. (Cards on the table: a long-gone tenant used to do a Hawaiian Burger that was a guilty pleasure: a pineapple ring and Thousand Island sauce, and we’ll say no more on the matter.)
In short: there has always been food served here, but it hasn’t been anything you’d go out of your way to eat sober. Which is where we come in, because this tiny space has for the last fortnight been home to Pizza Pronto, and things are changing.
During periods of home leave, kiosk landlord Kev became so disillusioned at the unambitious approach of former tenants that he teamed up with experienced chef and friend Simeon to launch Pizza Pronto (hence the French bit…) Presumably the mean streets of Penarth look just a tad safer than a tour in Iraq: I guess it saves on having to hire any late-night security, too. Either way, the idea grew out of one of those conversations it is easy to have when the tapas are plentiful and the Estrella Damm is flowing.
As far as results of drunken agreements in Bar 44 go, this must rank as one of the best. Kev and Simeon have teamed up to bring what they see as something unique to Penarth, something substantially different from the imminent Domino’s up the road.
The menu here is small and focusses on a few key ideas: serving simple but well-made dishes quickly. There are no surprises on the board: they’ll be found in any chain pizza joint on every street, but here speed and quality are priorities.
By the way- when I describe Pizza Pronto as small, I’m not exaggerating. You can get two people in there at once. Just. Customer number three will be shouting their order in from the pavement.
This is the evening menu, by the way- the lunch time options include a daily pasta dish, a soup and dough balls with brie and red onion jam, which I am assured are among the best things they do.
Service is friendly and fast- it has to be- the pizzas arriving thin and crisp, the edges blistered by the fierce heat of that oven, the toppings piping hot. Chicken and bacon, tuna and anchovy, pepperoni: all were uniformly excellent, which is to say they remind you of how good a simple dish can be when done well.
Obviously this is street food in its truest sense- there’s no seating to be had- but bearing in mind how hot these things are when they emerge, I’d hotfoot it back to the car* and take a couple of minutes’ drive down to the seafront, and eat them on a bench overlooking Flat Holm. That’s my ‘serving suggestion’, anyroad- especially with the tuna and anchovies. Eating those strips of tiny salty fish in sea air… it’s not going to get much better than that for a few quid, is it?
Garlic bread follows the same ‘flatbread’ template and comes dripping butter and reeking with garlic; this is A Good Thing. I tried a (complimentary) vegetarian ‘special’ which was an Italian spin on bubble and squeak, a family recipe from Simeon’s family, which about as far from a tired ‘oh let’s bung something on the menu for the veggies, bless ’em’ as you could find. Recommended.
I have no hesitation in awarding Pizza Pronto the inaugural ‘Plate Licked Clean ‘Best Italian Street Food Outlet Owned And Run By A Former Royal Marine Commando And His Mate” award.
But seriously. Let’s raise a glass to another local indie bringing something different (and did I mention delicious?) to our streets. This is the kind of place it’s a pleasure to visit and to write about. No Head Office in Connecticut; no laminated menu, no TV promotions, no uniformed staff reeling off the same company-approved greeting. Just someone coming back to their home area, setting up something they believe in, and relying on enthusiastic customers spreading the word of great, simple street food. With the Hang Fire Smokehouse residence in the offing, Penarth has better options than ever before.
We can all drink to that. Can’t we?
*Tip- use the car park in front of the station (and pop into The Bottle Shop for something cold while you’re there) and walk up the short slope. Short cut city.
Vale Of Glamorgan
Mon – Fri – 7:00AM – 2:00PM
Thur – 5:30PM – 12:00AM
Fri – Sat – 5:30PM – 1:30AM
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.