Pizza, the staple food of Italians, students and Michelangelo from Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, fiercely contested in style by the Neapolitan traditionalists to the deep-pan Chicagoan evolutionists. Donnelli’s Pizzeria pledges its allegiance to the former, proudly and publicly adhering to the strict guidelines of an official Neapolitan. Donnelli’s now has two locations in Norfolk; one on the Broads in Wroxham, and the other smack bang in the city, on Timber Hill. We visited the original, in the city, and I walked in concealing a dark secret: I don’t. like. pizza. Would I by the end? We’re about to find out…

Atmosphere Donnelli’s has the ambience of a traditional Italian pizzeria; rustic table settings, their open kitchen at the back giving you a glimpse of the wood fired oven that takes care of 90% of the menu by itself. There are no embellishments, no hipster touches, everything just presented simply, and for that reason, on a rainy Thursday evening, all the tables are filling up.

Starters & Sides Dough Balls with Garlic Butter // Buffalo Mozzarella and Beef Tomato Salad The sides and starters menu couldn’t be simpler, making it an easy choice. I went for dough balls, because usually you get to engineer your own buttery destiny, by applying as much or as little as you like. Seeing as I would ideally like to slather my balls in butter by the pint, I was so pleased to see a river of butter underneath to dunk them in. The dough was light and slightly sharp with yeast, which I like - a bit sourdough-style. If you’re taking a potential date, make sure you’ve both dipped your tongue in the buttery font, or one of you will recoil, vampire-like, away from any sign of passion. The mozzarella and tomato salad was divine; as fresh as a Tuscan breeze, adorned with simple sprigs of basil, it was a fresh clean taste against all that garlicky dough.

The Main Event Etna Calzone // Sorrento Pizza


I thought perhaps if I don’t like pizza so much, maybe I’d prefer it folded and molten inside. I need to explain: what’s not to like about pizza? Bready base, tangy tomato, fresh stretchy mozzarella and your choice of beautiful antipasti, meats or cheeses to go on top. It’s just that most pizzas don’t have any of that simple elegance. Claggy, heavy, greasy and dry - the first bite is beyond mediocre and then that feeling continues to the last bite. Not so here; with only the bare essentials used, those ingredients have to be five star, and they are. With both the calzone and the pizza, the dough was nicely seasoned, crisp and floury. Slightly charred on its uneven edges, it has the hallmark look of a hand- stretched, wood-fired pizza. I’m told later that it’s so light on your stomach because it’s low-gluten. The filling for the Etna was mushrooms, mozzarella and spicy salami. Being folded over, the ingredients were all steaming up together, making a juicy amalgam of flavour. The Sorrento was similar in flavour, with cured meats and chilli flakes added to their base of tomato sauce, olive oil and mozzarella. You know they’re taking care over their ingredients when extra virgin olive oil is listed in its own right. In hindsight, I should’ve ordered something like the Messina, for contrast, a veggie option with roasted aubergine, courgettes and peppers. There’s always next time…

Conclusion There are many places to satisfy your pizza craving, from the good to the bad to the ugly. But do those other places offer the same majesty of simple ingredients? Do they give you the option of a gluten-free base? Do they pass the strict laws of the Neapolitan pizza guidelines? And can they make a non-pizza loving critic think, “you know what, I’m coming here again…” No? Then don’t order your pizza from anywhere other than Donnelli’s.

Emma R. Garwood


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