The search concludes. I have found the perfect pizza. Or, at least, the best pizza that I have had outside of Italy.
And in Herne Bay?
I have never liked Herne Bay. People from school that lived there were not people that I tended to get along with. The only times that I ever went there were for swimming lessons, two ill-fated parties, and one time to sail.
But now I have a reason to go. And you do too.
This is the second place that I have made the point of visiting after reading an article in the Dish in the Sunday Times which listed the best pizza places in the country. They got Lardo wrong, and several others that I had already tried and disagreed with, but this was oh so right.
A Casa Mia is the first, and seemingly only, Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana verified pizzeria in the UK. This could mean anything, I’m not a pizza certifier, but if it is good enough for Napoli then it should surely be good enough for the people of Herne Bay.
Oh what a waste that it is in Herne Bay.
My good feeling started when I called to book a table.
A happy, authentic Italian lady. Who had difficulty with the booking system. I tried poorly to thank her in Italian and she enthusiastically thanked me and bid me adieu.
Mother was disappointed that the Italian lady wasn’t there on our visit, and so was I.
A Casa Mia need to work on their branding. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, and on the ground floor it mostly seems like a standard takeaway, albeit a slightly fancier one with a real wood fire oven.
There was a minor flap about the booking time (they thought it was 1, we thought it was 1.30) and mother apologised profusely. She had been in a terrible mood earlier in the morning but a twenty minute vent, an intense church service, and a further twenty minute vent through a new shortcut to Herne Bay meant that she felt hungry for pizza and life upon arrival.
Pierre was late, possibly surprised that mother would be on time for anything. We admired the rusticity of the decor and looked longingly at the plates of food being given to another dining family, the only other diners in the restaurant.
Sunday is a family day the world over. This isn’t really something that we have ever made a point of having in my family, but as I get older and find family becoming more important to me (especially as I am now physically closer to my family) I have made a point of starting to make it a thing to eat specially on Sundays. I love a good roast, but I would suggest an Italian meal as a welcome alternative.
Just three days prior to visiting I was griping about how I was yet to find a good Italian in London. This is still true, as Herne Bay is not London. Prior to one year or so ago I only ever ate in chain Italian restaurants. Never again.
Daisy instagrammed a Pizza Express pizza on Friday. I immediately Whatsapped her my pictures of A Casa Mia. “Not everything’s a competition, Sophia. Looks nice though. Where is it? Ask Italian.” A genuine wash of rage came over me. I think she was joking. Ask is the most inferior of the chain Italians.
Pierre arrived. He ordered a beer, which he said was “excellent” (he is not a man to give compliments), the starter special of buffalo mozzarella in rich tomato sauce (a second “excellent”), spaghetti alle vongole, and panna cotta to finish. He always order the spaghetti alle volngole in Italian restaurants, which he said was very tasty here, although there could have been more and the clams were a bit small, which he acknowledged is to be expected as they aren’t yet fully ripe. Summer will be grand. He saw the panna cotta wobbling from ten feet away and said that it was exceptional.
“Don’t you want to try a pizza?”
“There’s pizza at home.”
Not like this.
Mother and I shared the A Casa Mia pizza and the linguine o zuppa allo scoglio, in lieu of a starter. I initially suggested the linguine cozze e gamberetti, but the waiter upsold us for the better. We also ordered a capricciosa, but this came later as the waiter got confused and didn’t realise that we had actually ordered two pizzas with all my dithering.
The food all came together (that is: starter and mains. Dessert would come later) at our suggestion and to the wait staff’s confusion.
A note on the waiting staff: I liked them a lot. I was feeling particularly talkative and enthusiastic about the food and they happily chatted away to me. One of the waiters was Italian and I presume part of the family that run it. His suggestions were perfetto. The other waitress was a university student who connected with us as she was born in Hong Kong and was mixed white/Filipino; to her we spoke about travel and study. When my mother speaks to me, she speaks like a normal person. When she speaks to others, it can sometimes feel like she has only just landed on this planet. I have a friend who has a similar issue. My mother likes her.
Finger bowls with lemon came just before the food. This was necessary. As soon as the food came, everything became a blur. It smelled phenomenal, it tasted even better. The soft, yet still firm, pizza, with sufficient gloop. Still hot from the oven. Chewy. Real Neapolitan. The linguine was fresh and satisfying. The table was a flurry of napkins, lemon water, slurping pasta, gorging pizza. Between mouthfuls I asked where the capricciosa was and they swiftly made it and brought it out. We said very little, the certain sign of a good meal. I almost blacked out with culinary happiness.
Pierre had some of the pizza. Even he had to concede that the pizza at home, even from Waitrose, was incomparable. The final slice of capricciosa sat there and I asked who was having it.
“If no-one else is having it, I will have it” replied Pierre. I grabbed it and explained that I was just being polite. He doesn’t understand the majesty of pizza. He doesn’t deserve the final slice.
Mother and I shared the dessert of the day while Pierre enjoyed his dessert of choice. Ours was a mix between a cheesecake and a bannoffee pie, and came recommended by the waiter. I had an Americano alongside dessert and Pierre had a latte after dessert – they asked us if we would like coffee with or after dessert, which I believe is the first time that I have been asked this.
From start to finish the meal was exceptional. The perfect pizza, and a near perfect meal (come clam season…).
Upon leaving, I told the owner that it was the best pizza I had outside of Italy. I expected a bigger response to such high praise.
The waiter was outside smoking and thanked us and wished us well. Mother and I went for a cycle/run. The route from Herne Bay to Reculver is beautiful on a sunny bank holiday.
I regaled Hans with this tale four days later. Two days after that, he went. I was scared that I had overhyped it, but of course I hadn’t and he was in euphoric agreement about the quality of the pizza.
Later in the week I tried Franco Manca again and nearly laughed at the difference. In finding the perfect pizza, all other pizza is ruined.
I genuinely cannot recommend this highly enough.
10/10 – finito
A Casa Mia, 160 High Street, Herne Bay, Kent CT6 5AJ, +44 (0)1227 372947