Summer Nights (In January) @ Pizza Express, Harrogate

Pennette Formaggi

Anybody who’s seen the weather forecast this week, will have observed the lovely swathes of snow banding their way across the country. So far, Yorkshire hasn’t seen massive amounts of snow; just the sludgy jam-your-buggy-wheels-up type of stuff that just makes the school run unpleasant and makes a grimly sloppy snowball. Thanks for that, son *wipes side of face*.

Nonetheless, it has been cold, dark and relentlessly miserable. I’ve also been trying to make friends with my Christmas present to myself: A Fitbit to help me curb my gluttonous ways. To cheer myself up, I accepted a kind invitation from Pizza Express to go and try some specials that have been reintroduced off the summer menu, which would hopefully take the bite out of this grim weather (see what I did there?).

So how would a summer menu work in the dead of UK winter? There was only one way to find out. EAT!

I troughed daintily picked my way through three courses from the specials and really enjoyed the way the menu has been put together. As a driver/Dryjanuaryist (kinda… well ok, I’m not very good at it), I didn’t try the sloe prosecco aperitif, but a late summer berry twist sounds perfect in a dry fizz. Especially on a Friday night like this with friends. At this point, the three of us look to one another and wonder who suggested we all drive into town?

My starter of pennette formaggi (£5.75) was cheesy, oozy and drenched in a super-potent garlic oil. I love the stuff, especially when it mingles with a three-cheese sauce, mozzarella and Gran Milano, over the top of penne. Served in a Le Creuset-style lidded ramekin, it’s a small plate that’s deceptively filling. And oozy. And stringy. And delicious. Don’t tell my Fitbit I’ve just eaten that.

Pennette Formaggi
Pennette Formaggi

Having well and truly said arrivederci to my bikini bod (well, having two kids helped, can’t just blame the pot of cheese), I thought I may as well try the summery-sounding Barbacoa Romana (£14.25). A thin-stretched pizza topped with pulled beef that’s been marinated in chilli, lime and garlic, plus passata, chipotle salsa and a sprinkling of chopped tomato and red onion. The raw veggies and super-thin base indeed make this feel like a lighter and zippier choice for a warm summer evening, whilst the heat from the sauce and the tangy beef gave it the oomph of a stodgy, winter dish. I took my Fitbit off and put it in my handbag.

To finish, I ordered an oven-baked chocolate fondant (£6.40). A hot/cold contrast always makes the best desert in my opinion, and my friends did suffer dessert envy when mine arrived. Cutting the sponge open to allow the chocolate to ooze out was a joy. How many times can I say ‘ooze’ in one blog post? I’ll have to say it again; it was just oozy wonderment, especially as it cut through the cold ice cream.

Chocolate Fondant
Chocolate Fondant

So, I had a cheesy, oozy summer’s night dream in the middle of January, thanks to Pizza Express. I might put my Fitbit back on in a week or two, once I’ve stepped all the ooziness away.

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