Lievito (“yeast”) is a Chelsea pizza restaurant that opened in March 2017. It is located on the Fulham Road, co-owned by pizza chef Rocco Caridi from Calabria in the south of Italy, and beer specialist Francesco Donato. The two previously ran a pizzeria in Calabria together. The place has shelves full of delicatessen produce along the walls, with the kitchen visible at the far end of the room. It had a pleasant, welcoming atmosphere.
The menu offers a range of pizzas as well as assorted side salads, but no pasta dishes. A new branch is planned nearby that will additionally offer pasta. The style of pizza here is not Neapolitan style, but apparently that of Calabria, which also has a thin crust but is known for its use of spicy flavours. The pizza at Lievito has a very thin crust, achieved by dough being rested for 72 hours, while the ovens here are electric and operate at relatively low temperature compared to the wood-fired, high temperature ovens that we have become used to with Neapolitan pizza places in London.
There was a token wine list, but with no vintages shown and in some cases no producers either – “Blush Pinot Grigio” was one description in full. The wines ranged in price from £19 to £31, with sample labels being Pollino Bianco Terre di Cosenza at £27 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £8, and Chianti Cantine Melini Riserva at £29 compared to its retail price of about £9.
Frisella (£8.50) is a salad offered on bread that is twice baked and cut in half before the second baking. The Sicilia version had tomatoes, tuna, capers, red chilli, green olives, red onion, oregano and basil. I thought this worked well, the combination of flavours effective and the bread base having good texture (13/20).
We tried two pizzas. The Lievito (£14) had toppings of Fior di Latte cheese (cow milk mozzarella), sausage, rapini (broccoli rabe), Scamorza cow stretched milk cheese and red chillies. Although the base was reasonable, the overall effect was quite dry, which didn’t really work well for me (11/20). The capricciosa pizza (£11) was more successful, because the tomato sauce meant that it avoided the dryness of the Lievito. The toppings of olives and artichoke were good, and the base was thin and pleasant (13/20). A side salad (£3.80) was quite good, featuring red cabbage, olives and cucumber along with a decent dressing (12/20).
Strawberry cheesecake was made from scratch in the kitchen rather than being bought in, and served in a jar. I am not sure where the strawberries came from at this time of year, and the biscuit base was OK, but there was a fundamental problem of there being way too much sugar: the overall effect was wildly over-sweet, despite the acidity of the strawberries (10/20). Coffee was a brand called Caffe Mauro from Calabria. This was decent enough, though there are much better providers in London these days.
Service was chaotic. There was a good manager and one effective male waiter, a pleasant but ineffective waitress and another scowling waitress who seemed to speak no English at all. The latter managed to express her apparently extreme displeasure at being here tonight with every gesture, delivering dishes with no effort to figure out who had ordered what, and dismissing any requests made with a glare and a wave of the hand. The bill came to £43 per person with beer to drink.
Despite a service charge already being levied, the credit card slip was left open for a further tip, which I think is just sharp practice. It is all the more irritating here given the fairly shambolic service. Overall I found Lievito pretty erratic, with its nice salads but malfunctioning dessert and poor service. It was, however, wildly popular, turning tables regularly on this Monday night.