"Adagio", in Italian, refers to a slow tempo. So, it may seem a strange name for what is essentially a fast food, pizza place, but there's a logic to the madness. Adagio Pizza al Taglio hails its pizzas as "slow fast food".
It's all about the dough, you see. The dough is nurtured lovingly by chef Shelley Squire, for a minimum of 72 long, laborious hours before baking. The Mariah Carey of the dough world, this special blend of flours hailing from Vicalvi, south east of Rome, requires all the pandering and indulgence of the temperamental diva herself. It's kept at specially controlled temperatures, and is fondled, turned and folded at regular intervals as it bubbles and billows over the 72 hour wait prior to baking. And should one of these specially controlled conditions vary in the slightest, the whole thing (including Shelley's sanity) could all go out the window. The man must have serious nightmares about dough.
I didn't decipher all of this just from eating it. I am a sudden expert on pizza dough since, having opened in Soho at the start of February, the Adagio crew invited me and TPG down for a tour of the works, a natter with the chef and a comprehensive tasting of some of their many varieties of pizza al taglio ("by the slice"). Since we're off to Bologna this weekend, and in quite the "bring on all things Italian" frame of mind, we scooted down there as fast as our imaginary Vespas could carry us. We didn't pay for the tasting, but rest assured the Greedy Diva remains scrupulous in her judgement.
First impressions might not blow you away. It looks like a fairly standard takeaway place, and has clearly been set up for an intended roll out. There are a few stools for eating in, but there's a definite sense that Adagio is attempting to bring to London the Roman concept of pizza al taglio as a light snack on the go. And it's open late for the boozey crowd.
There's a large variety of flavours (over 40 apparently) which change daily, and are intended to change to match the seasons. They're sitting out on display, to be heated up once you order. They don't look particularly outstanding at first glance, but that's often the way with pizza and pasta in Italy from my experience - the proof is in the taste.
The distinguishing feature of Adagio's pizzas, compared to most of its London contemporaries, is the base. It comes in the traditional Roman style (slightly thicker than the thin Neopolitan style and much thinner than the big hefty focaccia-like numbers you'll get at Princi and elsewhere). And they do it pretty much perfectly - crunchy but chewy in all the right ways, and cooked evenly all the way through, it's moreish and filling without being overly doughey (a la Pizza Hut), floppy or oily.
A trained chef, Shelley's got the dough down to such a fine art because he traipsed around Italy until he found the perfect pizza base in a small neighbourhood place, then spent a month training in Rome in the kitchen of its maker. He has replicated the routine, preparation and ingredients precisely, right down to the special 400kg mixer and a 700kg oven which were transported over from Italy to give this doughey diva just the conditions she requires. Imagine getting this baby in the doorway:
We tried a smorgasbord of flavours, from our least favourites (and there were only a couple) - the dangerously explosive cherry tomatoes with garlic peperoncino and paprika (which lacked some spicy bite), and the butternut squash and pancetta with garlic (a tad on the bland side) - to the ultra tasty (even if a touched lightly with the ugly stick) tuna with mayonnaise, artichoke puree and artichoke hearts on a tomato base, the baked aubergine, garlic and parsley with feta, and the juicy Italian sausage with broccoli and peperoncino. The potato with mozzarella and rosemary was also lovely - carb on carb never fails me.
(I swear the tuna one tastes better than it looks)
While the toppings fluctuate in appeal, the delicious base is most definitely the highlight of these pizzas, giving the operation plenty of scope to play with toppings.
Made to measure and priced by weight - sample one big slice, or ask for bite sized samples of a few flavours. An average slice costs around £3.50 (and pizzas range from £1.90 - £2.10 per 100g).
I'm fussy about my pizzas, but I rate Adagio as one of my top places for a slice in London (along with Franco Manca, Red Pepper and Pizza East (reviewed earlier here), which are catering to a sit down crowd). I particularly love the full blown obsession that is going into getting this product just right. And I like the concept of a made-to-measure pizza snack for eating on the go - all while imagining you're strutting down the cobbled streets of Rome in your Armani shades with the Vespa parked just around the corner.
Adagio Pizza al Taglio, 10 Greek Street, London W1D 4DH