Published 17 May 2021
In Peckham Levels, a bright, colourful space in a part of London plush with bars and restaurants, is 081 Pizzeria, a new concept from the chef Andrea Ascuiti.
There should be no doubt as to the quality of the pizza, by the way. Ascuiti is formerly of Bravi Ragazzi – he has the restaurant’s logo tattooed on his right arm – the Streaham joint many consider to be home to the best Neapolitan pizza in London.
081 is his own, though, and moves beyond pies alone. Here is a slightly broader look at the food of Naples, encompassing ‘tapas’ the city’s population snack on while sitting down to chat over a drink. There’s frittatini, a deep-fried dough with minced meat and a cheese sauce; crocche, which are soft, pillowy croquettes of ham and pecorino; and arancina filled with bolognese.
The pizzas still take centre stage, though. Ascuiti does them spectacularly. Thanks to slowly fermented dough, crusts blister and pillow as they should, and toppings are of utmost Italian quality – San Marzano tomatoes, silvery anchovies in nutty oil, truffled mushrooms, and fine mozzarella from Campania. All this is cooked in the only AVNP-approved (Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana) electric pizza oven.
Ascuiti is typical in his Neapolitan ways. That is, quite emotional about pizza. We are trying to avoid the word ‘passion’ but it is difficult.
“This is true pizza – the pizza of Naples,” he told CODE while showing us around the new site. “We use only the best ingredients, only the finest produce. It takes a long time to perfect the cooking and the techniques. We’ve done that. We want to show people why these pizzas are so special and so magical. It’s also fun up here”.
It is fun. Aside from the food is crisp lagers and good southern Italian wines in a space in one of Peckham’s bustling cultural and social hubs. There are arcade machines and a mini golf course alongside a handful of other food outlets, neon lights illuminating darker corners of the building and views over South London on its terrace.
London might be saturated with new-age pizza restaurants today. 081 is Neapolitan, the vanguard of the trend certainly, but it could well see off much of the competition.