Our visit to Brick Lane’s vegan Italian, Picky Wops, happened shortly before lockdown commenced - a simpler and less exhausting time, when the primary practices of social distancing involved elbow bumps and wishing Happy Birthday to the bathroom sink. Owner Cristiano was surprised to see us turn up at all. He and his team had spent much of the day rearranging and disinfecting their whole gaff, but still most of their tables cancelled. We weren’t the only diners in the house that night though. For better or worse, some optimistic souls continued to honour their bookings, and to be honest, I’m hugely glad we did too.
Their menu is a small but mighty thing, with a handful of pizzas and pastas and a few more tempting sides. Tricolore Fries (£5.50) prove an inspiration for the proper use of last night’s leftovers - a portion of chips covered in bolognese, pesto sauce and 'parmesan' in homage to the Italian flag - while their dough balls (£4) might truly be some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Crunch through piping hot shells and you’ll be rewarded with a squashy, almost doughnut-like interior, all topped with a scoop of silky garlic butter.
With starters firmly dealt with, the mains arrive. Their Carbonara (£10) is a rich, creamy and comforting feat, loaded with chewy chunks of salty vegan pancetta. Likewise, their pizza Parmigiana (£11) is a deliciously filthy affair, smothered in a gooey mix of modern mozzarella, onions, pesto and melt-in-the-mouth aubergine. On recommendation we’ve upgraded our base from their regular dough mix to a burnt wheat offering. A southern Italian speciality, this seemingly minor alteration turns out to make all the difference, as the darker crust presents a surprisingly nutty flavour and offers a crispier base that elicits a very satisfying crack when chomped on.
While their dining rooms remain closed until further notice, I’m pleased to report that you won’t have to wait until summer to try them out. Making sure no-one goes without Italian essentials, Picky Wops are still open for delivery and prepared to post pizzas within a stonking 8-mile radius, alongside fresh ingredients and cook-at-home kits.
Offering a more eclectic take on classic crusts, Picky Wops should be a must-visit for any and all pizza-loving palates. Their plant-based plates mix simple grub with more intriguing Italian flavours to create some deliciously different comfort eats.
Picky Wops’ Brick Lane site is currently closed until further notice, but you can find them on Deliveroo and Slerp. And if you're looking for more vegan pizzas, we've got a whole list right here.