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Review of Nanninella Pizzeria Napoletana

Caprese of buffalo mozzarella with basil and cherry tomatoes at Nanninella on Preston Street in Brighton

I seem to find myself on Preston Street in Brighton quite a lot at the moment. Not just for work but also for pleasure, as this city centre road is rapidly dragging itself out of the doldrums and re-establishing itself as the go-to place for creative, top-notch street food at a multitude of well-priced eateries alongside pretty impressive cocktail bars led by Gung-ho and Medusa. Julien Barnett and his Gung-ho team in particular are making waves nationally having hit the heady heights of deservedly being in the UK’s top 50 cocktail bars this year.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to review Nanninella for well over a year now, having heard very good things from friends and colleagues. It’s a Napoli kitchen with an extensive range of pizza and traditional Italian snacks. If there’s one thing the good people of Naples and the surrounding region of Campania – one of my favourite holiday destinations – know how to do well, it’s most definitely rustling up the best pizza in the world. After all, in the dark distant past, they invented it.

Now I’m genuinely not one to easily be influenced by PRs and press releases – I plough through lame emails ten-to-the-dozen every day – but when my mate Adam said Nanninella was his favourite local restaurant, I simply couldn’t ignore his endorsement.

Nanninella on Preston Street in Brighton

I picked him up from work in central Brighton on a Tuesday evening and meandered along to this small and well-presented restaurant in the middle of Preston Street. I’m thankful we got there early at 5.30pm and had pre-booked as by 6pm all the tables were full – notably with a lot of Italian speaking families, couples and friend groups – with a queue out of the door and the staff regrettably having to turn potential diners away. In my mind at least, I’d say that screamed volumes as to what was to be arriving on our plates very shortly.

Brighton and Hove hasn’t ever been short of Italian or pizza restaurants. Naming-no-names, there’s the stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap ’n’ cheerful variety which do the job but aren’t exactly the pinnacle of authentic dining. Sitting alongside those there are the ubiquitous major national chains that are reliable but lack the love and don’t exactly rock your world; and then there’s the well-intentioned micro-multiples that promise the earth yet tend to under deliver for various reasons. And then – I’m starting to exhaust my weekly word count here – there are the ‘Italian’ restaurants where the owners have never even been to Italy…

I’m pleased to report that Nanninella genuinely sits on its own; there’s only one other Italian in the city that I’ve eaten at over the past year or so where I’ve experienced the same level of passion for quality, authenticity and sheer beautiful humanity of good service.

The menu is straight out of Campania’s heritage kitchen playbook. A handful of well-priced house wines, a few beers, a couple of simple aperitivo mixed drinks and a huge list of pizzas. There’s no pasta; Nanninello is all about serving proper Napoli street food wood-fired pizzas that are quite simply made incredibly well.

So, what did we order? Adam had his beady little eye on the ‘Scamorza’ – breaded deep fried smoked cheese with tomato sauce. He was so busy stuffing it in, he hardly had a second to reflect on the nuances of flavour. As I’m – a-hem – a light eater, I opted for the Caprese of buffalo mozzarella with basil and more sweet cherry tomatoes than I could eat. If fresh, quality ingredients could sing then they’d be at the very least an operetta on the palate.

Vivace house pizza with njuda, spicy salami and burrata at Nanninella on Preston Street in Brighton

Our pizzas – a classic, spicy Diavola and ‘Vivace’ house speciality pizza – were both overloaded with proper and I mean ‘proper’ ingredients that have been sourced with integrity. We hardly spoke, which for anyone who knows us, is the exception rather than the rule as when we get together we do enjoy a good-ol’ Brighton chit-chat.

The pricing at Nanninella is astoundingly good value. A classic Margherita is £8.75 with specials rising to around £14. A glass of house wine is £6 and a half of draft Moretti lager a very reasonable £3. Although not exactly the prices you’d find on the edgy and grubby back streets of Naples, I’d defy you to find this level of Italian cooking and hospitality anywhere else in on the English south coast, never mind in the Brighton and Hove itself.

All the pizza dough is made freshly every day in the restaurant’s kitchen. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, and happily for those with somewhat sensitive tums all the the pizzas can also be made with a non-gluten base although they do point out that they can’t guarantee their small and busy kitchen is 100% allergen free.

There is genuine hospitality and heart at Nanninella, not just from owner Sergio but also from his kitchen and front-of-house team who clearly love the restaurant and serving customers who go away with big smiles.

I can genuinely say that this this is probably the only restaurant I’ve ever reviewed in the city that really will never need PR company because it does exactly what it says on the tin. And it does it exceptionally.

Nick Mosley

Nanninella, 26 Preston Street, Brighton BN1 2HN

01273 325 500 •


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