1:00 p.m. March 18, 2022
Visiting our county town during the Welcome Back Ipswich weekend, there was a sense of optimism in the air. There’s no doubt that it’s been a tough time for our high streets… In fact, to put it mildly – it’s been awful.
But the local population is not resting on its laurels. It was great to return to Ancient House, for example, where a group of independent traders had come together to create a wacky and cool craft department store. That’s what Ipswich shouted. May the march forward continue for a long time.
Looking for a nearby lunch, we ended up at Storico. If the mid-2010s was a boom time for Turkish-Mediterranean restaurants in town, the last 12 months belong to the pizza. Several pizzerias have sprung up over the year – and I intend to try them all.
Storico is a short walk from the main drag on Northgate Street. It’s a part of Ipswich that seems a bit unloved at the moment. But ignore the sadness of the empty bar/pub nearby and step into this brand new place – opened in January.
As soon as we walked in we were greeted by a huge beaming smile from the waiter (who I believe is one of the owners). Genuine and friendly hospitality. Nothing forced or fake. We already felt like we were in Italy as this service is almost half the deal.
Inside, Storico has been comfortably decorated, with a few quirks — from the floating ceiling to the (but effective) faux-tile wallpaper, a “green” wall, and a gleaming saxophone in one corner.
The scent of oregano, basil and garlic wafted from the semi-open kitchen, where the pizza oven was in full view.
Other customers seemed in good spirits and were seated with empty plates. A good sign.
I must point out how comfortable the chairs were. It might sound like a silly note, but I’m short and still suffer from hardwood, style over substance, legs chopping my legs. Not here. They were beautiful and sweet.
At first glance the menu looked good and thankfully didn’t deviate from Italy – no ‘English’ options of fries or burgers. The prices also seemed reasonable. Around £8-£13 for a main course and £5 for puddings.
We didn’t go for the starters (which included the usual bruschetta and salads). My eye was caught by the homemade pasta in a choice of shapes, to be coated in alla Norma, arrabiata, ragu, seafood or one of many other sauces. But as soon as we saw the pizzas arrive on a nearby table, our appetites were set.
In addition to having to choose your filling (whether pesto, roast chicken and Rosta with pepper, or A La Mela with gorgonzola, apple, truffle oil and olive paste) there’s the decision to go for a classic basic or pay an extra £1.50 for wholegrain, charcoal or gluten-free.
We stuck with the classic – this time.
Most pizzas are anointed with sweet crushed San Marzano tomatoes, pureed with little else to make a sauce, and fior di latte mozzarella.
My daughter had this basic pizza (her go-to), while the rest of us worked on the more interesting options. My son, the meaty option topped with tons of marinated chicken and salami. My husband, a kind of pizza topped with smoked beef carpaccio, arugula, fresh tomatoes and Grana Padano. And me, the Capricciosa, with tender ham, groves, artichokes and black olives.
The toppings were good, sure, but the star of the show at Storico is actually the dough. Clearly long-fermented, it had a full, wholesome, rich flavor that only comes with time. It wasn’t some mushy, chewy afterthought. The taste, texture, puffy charred edges and slender center reminded me of the pizzas we ate in Rome’s lovely Trastevere neighborhood.
I’ve already mentioned the sauce, which was perfectly balanced for spiciness/sweetness.
And I was happy to see that they used fior di latte, which is so important in making good pizza. Made at very high temperatures, unlike the chewy mozzarella you get in supermarkets, this product has a high melting point, which means that instead of becoming greasy or cloying under the fierce flames of a wood-fired oven , it crumbles and oozes to become gooey and molten. .
We were full, but the desserts were only at five, so we thought “why the hell, why not?”
Unfortunately, although nicely arranged on the plates, the puds were less inspired than the mains. They didn’t seem homemade and were a bit sweet. I would say they were fine if you want a little something to go around the day/night next to a coffee.
The chocolate soufflé was more like a fudge brownie/cake in the middle. And the salted caramel cheesecake was just ok. Nothing dramatically wrong – I just prefer homemade desserts.
In total, lunch at Storico cost £67 for four massive pizzas of excellent quality, two puds, freshly squeezed juice, a cider and a glass of wine, which we all agreed was a good value for money. We will definitely be back.
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