Review: Oregano Pizzeria, Brighton

by - March 21, 2009

Sweet mercy. The horrors bestowed upon the poor pizza almost has me re-enacting the famous arms in the air "Whhhhyyyyy..." Platoon scene. The origins of the pizza as a humble, peasant dish have been long forgotten and you are more than likely to find it pumped up, crust stuffed, as thick as a paving slab and topped with an all manner of bonkers ingredients like Peking duck, fruit or hotdogs (even all at once) before being lashed with buckets of pre-grated processed cheese and served with a cream cheese and chive dipping sauce. Eek!

My joint winners of the most offensive pizza of late has to go to mock-New York Italian restaurant, Frankie & Benny's (yeah, I was desperate) whose interpretation of this dish was a soggy, almost omelette-like base (I'm guessing frozen origins) and had a grease waterfall when you picked it up. I didn't have the misfortune to order the pizza from The Hope pub on Queens Road like my colleagues did the other week but let's just say that if it's true you eat with your eyes first then I was temporarily blinded anorexic.

A good pizza should remain upright when picked up and sound hollow on the base when tapped. Generally you only get this if it has been cooked in a wood burning oven.

Oregano's in Brighton's Old Steine is a wood burning pizzeria from which you can get a very fine pizza. The inside has been decorated to mimic a traditional pizzeria with lots of wood and has just six tables. Now the other good thing about this pizzeria is that the pizzas are about £5 each which you can't argue with and along with a couple of Peroni's will see you good for a tenner. The thing is, this place is great but comes with certain caveats. The only pizza I repeatedly order from here is the prosciutto crudo (in the picture), a delicious topping of salty prosciutto and parmesan on a scant tomato sauce base and topped with fresh rocket at the end. The bases are chewy and rigid and all is wonderful.

But–and it is a big but–when I have deviated away from this choice I have been really disappointed and they do cater for odd people who like odd toppings (you know who you are). There is only one wine choice of each type which is cheap but I would pay a bit more for better. Also, the starters of chicken wings and potato wedges are takeaway standard at best so don't bother. That aside, I would (and do) often go back for my favourite pizza. The only takeaway I have ever ordered was pizza from Oregano's from the days of renovating my flat sans kitchen. So I would recommend this place? Absolutely. But with a big fat asterix.

It's position on the Old Steine has not done it any favours and had this place been in The Lanes it would be serious competition for Brighton's cheese-on-toast-style pizzerias. That may be why is is up for lease but with a few tweaks and adjustments this place could be transformed by new owners into the place for pizza in town.

Open (for now anyway) for takeaway or eat-in.
Oregano 19 Old Steine, Brighton, BN1 1EL Tel:01273 677377

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