Brighton continues to build its reputation as a food-lovers paradise. Not only are there more restaurants opening, but many of the new additions are bringing something different to the table. One of those is NuPosto, Brighton’s first purveyor of authentic Neapolitan pizzas. To find out more about what makes a Neapolitan pizza different from the regular pizzas we’re all used to, BN1’s Gary Marlowe met up with the man behind NuPosto, Brighton resident, but Naples born and bred, Pasquale Biscardi.
When did you first think about opening up in Brighton and how long did it take to find the right site?
Pasquale: I was living in Brighton and realised there was no Neopolitan pizzeria here. I’m from Naples and my family own two of the best pizzerias in the town centre. I was waiting for the right site to become available, somewhere of the right size, where we could have an open kitchen so people could see our chefs at work. This site had been closed for a couple of years when we got it. It used to be the Latin Lounge. It’s reasonably big. We have 250 covers. Our restaurants in Naples are bigger, at least twice, maybe three times the size. We call this a pizza bar, it’s very casual and relaxed.
Did the fit-out take long?
Pasquale: The fitting wasn’t the biggest issue. What took the longest time was signing the lease. Our landlord is the TraveLodge and they took some time to complete the paperwork.
Brighton has always had lots of restaurants, but there seems to have been an explosion of new openings in recent years. Indeed, at least one new restaurant seems to be opening up every week. Is that entirely down to the many visitors that come to Brighton or is there something else happening?
Pasquale: Well, Brighton’s population is definitely growing. We see it every day with how many people come to ask for jobs who have just arrived here from all over Europe. Mostly young people. Brighton is offering more and more. It’s becoming a city, rather than a town.
Usually, seaside resorts are very seasonal. They are busy in the summer and quiet in the winter. Brighton is different, isn’t it?
Pasquale: There’s so much happening in Brighton that people visit year round, but of course, the summer months are a lot busier.
And do you think that as more restaurants open, the bar is raised in terms of quality?
Pasquale: Definitely. Competition is much greater than it used to be. And the bar is definitely going up. It means you need to have the best chefs and use the best produce.
Brighton already has the major pizza chains like Pizza Express and Zizzi, as well as local pizzerias like Donatello and many other Italian restaurants that serve pizza along with other dishes. And now you can even get wood-fired pizza outside Brighton station. Why do you think us Brits have such an appetite for pizza?
Pasquale: If you think it’s popular here, go to America, pizza is everywhere! The love for pizza in America rivals that of the Italians. Here in Britain I think people are starting to get to know about different styles of pizza, where before pizza was just pizza. Now people are realising there are regional variations. Here at NuPosto for example, some of our ingredients — like Neopolitan broccoli — you can only get from Naples.
Does that not make your food costs more expensive?
Pasquale: If something is too expensive, we look for another producer. Our prices are extremely competitive.
With so many pizza places already, any new arrival had to be different. With you, it’s all about authenticity. Just how authentic is NuPosto?
Pasquale: Authenticity is everything. I’m from Naples, our chefs are from Naples and so is everything we make our pizzas from. Even our ovens come from Naples. And if anything’s not from Naples, it’s definitely from Italy. If something is better from another region, like the parma ham and our olive oil, then we’ll pick that.
You haven’t got it all your own way, another ‘authentic’ Naples pizzeria, Fatto a Mano, also recently opened in London Road. Have you been to try it out?
Pasquale: No, I’ve not been there. I don’t need to. They’ve been here though, at least their chefs have and more than once. The owner is English. I’m from Naples, I know pizza. We know what we’re doing. They’re in a different area, they have their own market. I don’t feel I’m in competition with them and I wish them all the best.
And just last month, another ‘authentic’ Italian restaurant has opened in Brighton — Russell Norman’s Polpo is modelled on the scruffy wine bars of Venice. Have you had the chance to stop by?
Pasquale: They are a chain. I know the company and I’ve seen some of their London restaurants. They look good, but I’ve never tried their food so I can’t really judge. I will definitely be going there. It’s a different offer to ours and I may even learn something from them!
Compared with many pizzerias, you have a very limited menu. How difficult was it to decide what to put on the menu and do you think you got the offer right first time, or have you had to tweak it?
Pasquale: Experience told us what pizzas would work best. People here seem to like the same flavours as they do back home. The only issue for some people is the dough, they expect it to be like they’re used to at places like Pizza Express. Generally, I think we got it right.
What is it about the dough that’s different? What makes a pizza properly Neopolitan?
Pasquale: The first thing to say is a Neopolitan pizza cooks really, really quickly because the temperature of the oven is a lot higher at around 400 degrees. It only takes around 60 seconds, instead of three or four minutes in a conventional pizza oven. Any longer and you’ll just burn the pizza. It’s real fast food! Being less cooked, it’s less dry than most pizzas with a softer, lighter, less bready dough and its cornichone — the raised edge of the pizza — is raised by hand.
Your pizza ovens are powered by gas, rather than being wood fired (like Fatto a Mano) Some claim gas powered heat creates humidity, whilst heat from wood is dry. Does it really make a difference?
Pasquale: It goes back to our experience in Naples. We have two restaurants, one has a wood oven, the other has gas. We’ve done numerous blind tastings and despite many of the people eating pizzas every day, no one could tell them apart. I think there’s a lot in people’s imagination. It’s a little bit like a natural cork versus a plastic cork with wine. I can tell you many of our customers in Naples can’t believe our pizzas are cooked with gas, so much so that they go to the ovens to check. Gas ovens are also more eco friendly, we’re not burning tons of wood.
You’re on West Street, which is considered ‘party central’ by many. It’s also gained a bad reputation for rowdiness. What’s your view?
Pasquale: The biggest question mark for us was are we doing the right thing opening in West Street? Many people said to us “Are you really sure?” We’ve been here for seven months now and the biggest satisfaction is proving people wrong about the location. When we first opened we had bouncers on the door every Friday and Saturday, but we never once needed them. So after three months we removed the bouncers and we’ve never had a problem. We’ve had zero trouble. The atmosphere here is always the same, including the weekends.
Recently, plans were unveiled to ‘transform’ West Street into something resembling Barcelona’s La Ramblas. What did you think of the plans?
Pasquale: I think this road deserves a lot more than we’ve got at the moment. I would like to see the council moving quicker in improving the street, after all, it is the main pathway for people going to the beach. It needs landscaping like they’ve done outside the station. Thousands and thousands of people come up and down this road and it’s simply not good enough. I heard that the council won’t give any more permits for nightclubs, or for late licenses. I think they want to encourage more restaurants.
Next year sees the opening of the i360 — or the British Airways i360 as it’s now to be known. The council believes the attraction will inject between £13m and £25m of additional revenue into the local economy. Do you think it will bring in the 700,000+ visitors each year, that they claim it will, including more than 150,000 new visitors to the city?
Pasquale: Anything new brings people, so it’s very welcome. I think it’s extremely modern for Brighton, but at the same time it’s something that was needed. The more attention on Brighton, the better. As long as it’s quality and helps the town to grow, it’s got to be good.
Talking of growth, what are your own future plans? Will you be opening more restaurants? Will we be seeing NuPosto branded products?
Pasquale: It’s a little too early to talk about what we may do next. We want NuPosto to grow, we want it to do well and we want to see people coming back. We’ve already been approached by people who are interested in setting up a NuPosto elsewhere, but so far our focus is with what we’re doing here. It’s why I spend most of my time in the restaurant, ensuring that we’re doing things right and maintaining our high standards.
How difficult is quality control?
Pasquale: It’s mostly to do with the pizzas themselves. But by having chefs who come from Naples, they know what they’re doing. It’s not an easy thing to teach. It may seem easy, but it requires a lot of skill. It’s not about our pizzas all looking the same — they shouldn’t — it’s about how they’re cooked and how they taste. Remember, we also make all our dough in-house, nothing is frozen.
Apart from pizza, what else do you like to eat?
Pasquale: I eat pizza every day, but I do like lots of other foods, I’m a foodie. I like sushi and I like Indian. I also like Turkish food, especially barbecues. I like trying new places.