Authentic Italian cuisine appears to mystify Brighton.
Very Italian Pizza (VIP)
19 Old Steine, Brighton, BN1 1EL
Authentic Italian cuisine appears to mystify Brighton. We are awash with both chain and independent restaurants offering sub-standard British-influenced Italian and (luckily) a clutch of decent pizza takeaways.
So when not one, but two, born-and-bred Italians say to you "the real deal is here", we hotfooted to Very Italian Pizza!
Very Italian Pizza (or VIP) is a family-run business. Originating from southern Italy - after years of farming and distributing Italian produce across not only their homeland, but also Europe - the family decided to open their first UK-based Italian restaurant here in Brighton.
VIP is more than just a sit-down restaurant; it also acts as a deli and takeaway. Selling their own produce, including a wide selection of Italian-smoked meats, cheeses and imported goods, VIP becomes an Italian community hub in its own right. Throughout the evening, the hustle and bustle grew as Italians gathered, shopped, drank and ate - surely a promising sign for this new Italian restaurant-cum-deli!
Decorated in a slightly-over-the-top rustic style with subtle red, white and green touches - the odd basil plant here, a cleverly-placed tomato there - VIP is exceptionally light, fresh and inviting. Well-crafted thick, light-oak wooden tables, red metallic chairs and an air of relaxed informality is present at VIP.
The menu design is nothing special: double-sided and laminated, it looks like any other Italian restaurant in the city. Divided simply into starters, pasta, pizza, panuozzo and desserts, VIP has an eclectic selection of authentic Italian dishes, plus a few British crowd-pleasers throw in for tourist measure.
Dining with two Italian friends, Andrea and Gaia, both from Rimini in northeast Italy, was a humbling experience. They talked me through their irritation with Italian cuisine in Brighton and highlighted what sets VIP apart from the majority of Italian restaurants in the city.
We started with the Tavola Di Affettati - bresaola, Parma ham, speck, pancetta, salame, mortadella, bocconcini, and mozzarella (£7, or £13 for two sharing).
A large board of smoked and dry-cured meats, plus cheese, was presented; both exceeded expectations in terms of quality and quantity. From dry-cured Parma ham to smokey speck and provola affumicata cheese, the charcuterie was a wonderful introduction.
For main, we ordered two pizzas, the Porcino - mozzarella, porcini wild mushrooms, speck, rocket, parmesan shavings - and the VIP - mozzarella, black truffle cream, porcini wild mushrooms, sausage - along with a bowl of Scialatielli Porcini pasta.
Utilising their fabulous traditional wood-fired oven to full effect, VIP make all pizzas using lievito madre yeast. This produces a lighter base with better digestibility and is one of Very Italian Pizza’s hallmarks. The VIP Pizza with its truffle cream and porcini mushrooms was decedent and rich, the toppings really holding their own against the light base - a real stand out of the evening. The Porcino pizza was a little dry; we were assured, however, that VIP are working on improving this recipe.
The scialatielli pasta is made from scratch and took a little longer to arrive, but it was worth the wait - as gorgeous thick strands of al dente pasta swam in a deep red wine, herb and porcini sauce. Finishing off our meal with a bitter, dark and highly-enjoyable homemade Tiramisu was the perfect end to a very enjoyable, relaxing and authentic Italian three hours of dining.
VIP, you have set pulses racing in both the Italian and Brighton community. Welcome to the neighbourhood.