Food & Drink

The secret to ‘O ver’s incredible pizza? Mediterranean seawater (seriously)

The best of Naples arrives in St James's Market

If there’s one thing London doesn’t lack, it’s Italian restaurants. Not that we’re complaining. On any given night of the week, in practically any borough, you can be as sure of finding a plate of authentic, nonna-worthy pasta as you would be in Florence or Naples. The same can be said of ‘O ver in St James’s Market, the latest addition to London’s Italian food scene – only here the star of the show is its pizzas.

Mauro Palomba, founder of 'O ver

The new West End branch follows in the footsteps of the first ‘O ver, which launched in Borough Market in 2016 to enthusiastic reviews. Like its name, which means ‘it’s true’ in Neapolitan dialect, the menu at ‘O ver concentrates on bringing authentic Naples street food to a London audience.

A prime example is the frittatina, a deep fried macaroni tart, as well as the deep fried baby mozzarella, which nod to Naples’ cuoppo: a street snack of freshly fried seafood, pasta or cheese. These sit alongside more pan-Italian starters, like the white truffle burrata and the melanzane alla Parmigiana. The former was quite possibly the best burrata this side of the Mediterranean, flecked with real flakes of black truffle throughout, while the parmigiana is thick and satisfyingly al dente, drenched in smoked mozzarella.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

Meanwhile, the four-strong pasta menu keeps things expertly to the point. A highlight is the handmade fettuccine with simple tomato sauce and olive oil, which is at once silky smooth and full of flavour – the founder of ‘O ver, Mauro Palomba (above), tells me it’s the dish he uses to test the abilities of any new chef. The fusillo alla Paolone, meanwhile, is a richer affair, stuffed with the finest Italian produce: Tuscan pork, San Marzano DOP tomato sauce, and porcini mushrooms.

Fusillo alla Paolone

But, however delicious, overshadowing the pasta is ‘O ver’s pizza menu, the restaurant’s calling card in a capital stuffed with pizzerias. When it opened its first Borough Market branch, ‘O ver’s USP was being the first restaurant in the UK to use pure seawater to make its pizzas. Sourced from crystalline areas of the Mediterranean, it’s an ingredient that makes for a soft and elastic dough and, with 40 per cent less sodium and more minerals, pizzas that are lighter and easier to digest. They’re certainly as moreish as any you’d get in Naples, with a featherlight base that still has that pillowy crust. The Capricciosa in particular, with fior di latte, San Marzano DOP tomato sauce, grilled artichokes, Italian ham and black Gaeta’s olives, was a perfect balance of unctuous toppings and chewy base.

Sorrento pizza

Although ‘O ver doesn’t offer up anything a London audience hasn’t seen before, its dedication t0 recreating Naples’ best dishes with passion and flair will ensure diners eager for authentic pasta and pizza will flock to St James’s Market regardless. After all, even though the capital is flooded with great Italian restaurants, it doesn’t look like Londoners’ appetite for the food of la dolce vita is going anywhere anytime soon.