REVIEW: Nanninella Pizzeria, Brighton

by - January 16, 2020

Brighton's love affair with pizza continues, and you won't hear any complaining from me. I've even had to fire up a separate to eat list on my phone's notes app just for pizzerias. (Everyone has a to-eat list, right?) There are three new spots that I needed to try, three! Never would I thought I'd see the day where I couldn't keep up with my pizza schedule.

Anyway, top of this list was Nanninella in Brighton's revived restaurant row, Preston Street. Any new restaurant worth its salt builds up interest with social media tasters and they did a very good job here. Followers were brought along for the ride to see murals being painstakingly painted and the general graft of building a restaurant from scratch.

And because everything in Italy has to have significant meaning, Christ, refer to pasta shape names alone, the name "Nanninella" was taken from a traditional Neapolitan dream book, where each dream is given a specific number. The building number on Preston Street is number 26 so this dream is of Nanninella; a moniker for St. Anna, mother of the blessed Mary and protector of families.

Lucky as other dreams in the book include breasts, bedpans, death, nude women and thankfully they didn't move into number 16 or else their restaurant would be called "Bum". I digress.

I don't normally go for starters before a pizza but these seemed too good to miss. A mixture of stuffed fried Neapolitan street food was a delight to find on the menu; panzarotto (mashed potato balls with chesse), zeppoline (dough balls with seaweed), frittatini, calzocini and the more wider known arancini. Delicious and perfect with an aperativo, but something to dip them into would have been welcome.

Meatballs (I was with Rosie and god forbid we don't go whole hog with ordering) were traditionally made with coarse breadcrumbs, but these were sadly too cloying, dense and dry. Certainly not like my mamma makes.

Despite that, I will say that the selection of starters sound so good you could come here for these, reimagined as small plate dining. Parmigiana, a side of friarielli (broccoli hybrid), a caprese salad and some sgugnizielli (dough strips topped with tomatoes and basil) is a decent meal to wash down with one of their well-priced reds.

Anyway, the main draw is of course the pizza. The oven is electric (too much grief from the council for a wood burning one) but domed and traditionally built, so you do get results close to the real deal, but I'm yet to be convinced of electric mimicking wood entirely.

The pizzas checked a lot of boxes with the typical Neapolitan soupy centre, great leoparding, but I'd say oven temperature was a bit low so the cooking time was a little long resulting in a dryer base. We're talking seconds probably, but hey, I'm a pizza geek. Shame for me that I don't have the same understanding of the share market, eh. The crux of it is this is a good pizzeria, hugely enjoyable, generous toppings, good quality and balanced. I chose the Napoletana, my staple choice, and I was treated to quite a lot of capers and anchovies, resulting in a desert-like thirst the next morning but the suffering was worth it.

Nanninella will do well; it was chock full of Italians when I visited, a good sign, prices are spot on, service is charming, and the interior is a delight with cute booths, hand painted tiles and lots of lovely details (the painted ceilings in the loos are adorable). It just has that loving touch of an independent that the chains, even the small ones, can't compete with.

26 Preston Street
Brighton BN1 2HN

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