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Launch Of New Spring Menu At Pizza Express

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Published 8 May 2010

Last week, I was invited to a special evening hosted by PizzaExpress, where I got the chance to sample their new spring menu which introduces new Leggera pizzas and mini desserts that, to my delight, were light on the calories but still extremely satisfying. Plus there was the chance to sample a limited edition election pizza, as well as try my hand at being a pizzaiolo!

‘’What pizza could I make..?’’ I mused, having been invited to the PizzaExpress Spring event for London bloggers to take a peek behind the scenes. With, get this, a promise of making our own pizza (yay!)  I got as far as ‘’something in lots of sections’’ and ‘’cheese and marmite’’ before giving up my dream of running my own pizzeria.  But for executive development chef Antonio Romani, head chef of PizzaExpress for over 20 years, coming up with fresh ideas seems to be a walk in the park – or rather in the hills, if his new creations are anything to go by. The mare e monti -Italian for sea and hills –and the Verdura – Italian for vegetables – are two new mouth-watering flavours of Leggera pizza he’s added to the PizzaExpress Spring 2010 menu.

The Leggera, pronounced ‘Lay-jer-ah’, is Italian for ‘light’, and the pizza lives up to its name – coming in at a hip-slimming  500 calories give or take. The trick is the centre of the pizza is replaced by a salad – solving that ‘’should I have pizza or salad’’ dilemma which could have your dinner partner glazing over, and test the patience of even the friendliest waiter. And no half and half sharing across the table is needed – you know who you are! The Leggera is also lower in saturated fat than the other pizzas on the menu, so isn’t just one for the ladies!

I was excited to find that the mare e monti topping is a combination of king prawns (my favourite!), mushrooms, red onions, black olives (for ‘vizuell’ effect), and fior di latte – a light mozzarella  – finished with Cajun spice, oregano and fresh parsley. If seafood isn’t your bag, the Verdura pizza is a sumptuous feast of red and yellow peppers, courgettes, mushrooms, rosemary and sweet baby onions (they are really sweet-looking as well as tasting), with fior di latte mozzarella and a drizzle of garlic oil. Either one of these may yet trump the established Contadina Leggera pizza as the Londoner’s favourite!

I could hardly contain myself when we got to play pizzaiolo (Italian for pizza chef) and make our own versions of the two new Leggera pizzas (hooray!) whilst getting as messy as we wanted with flour, shaping and tossing our own dough like the best of them. We even got to wear our very own PizzaExpress apron and hat for this challenge, and with a cheeky beverage in hand to add to the fun!  Now life just doesn’t get any better than that – in fact becoming a pizzaiolo is now my new career plan B!

We went on to taste our pizza creations, and sample the new Dolcetti items to the dessert menu –  adorable mini desserts with a coffee, which is perfect if you’re still craving for dessert but rather full from the starter and main course! I thought all my Christmases had come at once when I saw the choice of Cannolo on offer- a Sicilian crispy wafer roll, with sweet ricotta inside – it was truly lush washed down with a latte! Otherwise the Tartufo Al Cioccolato – a rich truffle ice cream rolled in cocoa powder will cater for the worst chocoholic – guilty as charged! What a decadent creation!

The message this Spring at PizzaExpress is Live Leggera, which encourages healthy eating the Italian way – a welcome campaign with sunny beach days just around the corner. If you’re debating between your local takeaway and PizzaExpress, you may be interested to find that Which? Magazine found PizzaExpress pizzas to be the lowest in the calories count AND tastiest out of all the competitors (ASK, Prezzo, etc) on the pizza chain circuit. So, good news, we can still eat out without piling on the pounds! The interesting thing is that all the bases are thin crust, making them less calorific as a rule than deep pan or stuffed crust. There you go. There are also lots of healthy veggies on the menu, adding to our 5-a-day – I know I need to give mine a boost! And did you know that PizzaExpress count none other than Prince William amongst their fans? Well if it’s good enough for Wills…

To top it all off, they had also gone and created a pizza for the election: The People’s Pizza! Yes, you read right – we got to sample it, and I was along the right lines with my earlier pizza idea of ‘lots of sections’ – but could never have thought of this.  They’ve taken the 9 most talked about Election issues and immortalised them in a special one-off, 9-section pizza portrait of political Britain – now there’s a tongue twister! Sadly, this special election pizza was only available in select Pizza Express restaurants up until general election day (6th May).

So if all this talk of pizza’s made you hungry, get yourself down to PizzaExpress for their Pizza for £1 promotion – a pizza for £1 with another main meal – until Sunday 9th May, every day – see www.pizzaexpress-offers.co.uk to download and print your Pizza Express voucher.

Or if the idea of getting messy and playing pizzaiolo sparks your interest, check out the PizzaExpress schools programme and parties for kids, where children can create their own pizzas and get messy to their hearts content – just call the manager at your local pizza express. Now I’m off to have some pizza!

Article written by Jeanine Hack.