You know the constants of Cardiff pizza reviews by now.
Whether it’s name checks for ingredients which have become whatever the Italian for de rigeur is- Fior de Latte mozzarella, San Marzano DOP tomatoes, and so on; or mentions of a hulking oven (bonus points if it’s a Stefano Ferrara); whether it’s our old chum ‘authentic‘ (whatever that means this week- check inbox for latest memo), or a list of the chef’s former billets, or a query over the plural- pizzas or pizze?- it’s a well-worn route to Review Predictability via Cornicione Parkway and Airy Crust Central.
I’ve used them, you’ve used them, every opinion-haver and opinion-broadcaster worth their salt and your time (and plenty who aren’t) has used them. You’ll have seen a welter of them as people race to review Scaramantica.
Locally the dominant style is Neapolitan (with RomEat, mere yards away, bucking that trend) and Dusty’s, Ffwrnes, The Dough Thrower and others doing good work elsewhere.
And for years now an awful lot of the best Neapolitan-type pizze in this city has been made by Tony Frawley: it’s why news of his return to this site, a short sideways dap down Albany Road, was always going to be noteworthy. (As an aside- I did some judging for a national Italian restaurants award a few years back: the newly opened Anatonis was one of my allocated visits. It was one of the easier category decisions to make. They won. At a canter.)
The menu here is, unsurprisingly, pizza-heavy with a few sides and pastas available. But it’s the former you’ll come here for, first and foremost, and these will always be in the conversation when the perennial ‘best in the area’ discussion crops up.
Squid is my kitchen barometer, if only figuratively. It might be yours, too: if a kitchen makes a mess of that, make your excuses and leave. You evening isn’t about to get any better. Here it’s lightly coated and lightly handled, and just the thing with Italian lager, lemon and sunshine.
We try four pizze over our two visits, three days apart, the first as guests on their launch night featuring a full service. It’s all good. Very good. But let’s not get drawn into one of those lists of ingredients and adjectives: food writing shouldn’t be about me telling you that goat’s cheese is ‘creamy’ or pepperoni ‘spicy’. From the vegan Capriccoiosa, the mixed meats of the Quattro Carni, the pepperoni and basil of the Il Georgio or the Lasagne pizza (take a guess), you know how to read a menu and they’re all variations on a theme. And it’s the constant here that makes Scaramantica’s menu special.
Of course it’s that fermented-tangy base, the air-pocketed, blistered rim- less painful than it sounds- and the lack of ‘hang’ in each slice. They are all, as expected, very good indeed. It’s the subtle lactic tang of that puffed rim that stays with you, more than the toppings themselves, and that’s the theme throughout.
An old friend who knows Tony’s food well visits between my trips. He finds the lasagne pizza under-sauced, feeling it should have been more lavishly portioned. Out of curiosity, I order: but I disagree, because a thicker ragú would risk making it too much of a good thing, turning the whole thing into a too-rich slog. It has the good sense to hold back. It works ‘as is’.
Scaramantica. ‘Superstition‘. Well, there’s no rabbit’s foot or lucky clover needed here. All full of those features which make Tony’s pizze remarkable, worth travelling across the city for. You’d have to be a fool to bet against this doing well, winning fans across Cardiff and becoming a destination in its own right.
This will be my go-to when I want the good stuff. This is business as usual for Tony Frawley and pizza as good as it has ever been in Cardiff. And really? That’s all you need to know.
Scaramantica, 2 Pen-Y-Lan Rd, Cardiff CF24 3PF
Monday to Sunday, 5pm-10pm
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