If you’re looking for the best pizza outside of Italy – avoid the ‘pizza house’ chains (that includes Jamie’s ersatz Italian) and the inflated egos and creaking sense of service in the Little Italy eateries that populate Lothian Road and Hanover Street (think of macho-Italian versions of Miss Haversham without the enthusiasm) – do yourself a favour and get yourself along to The Jolly on Elm Row (top of Leith Walk). Forty-odd different types of pizza, plus the option to create your own from the basics, average price is around £7.50 for a medium size – which is actually quite huge, all cooked in a wood-fired oven with that crucial Naples style base: puffy – but crisp – topped with a proper sugo and not some kind of Dolmio apology. There is also a huge selection of pizza alternatives: pasta etc. but as a veggie I tend to stick with what has made The Jolly famous. If you want a real bargain and need to seriously fill up mid-day you can get a three course lunch for £6.10 (huge choice including pizza) which has to be the best value in town. A decent bottle of wine is around £15 – the house red/white served in carafes is considerably cheaper which, if you’re not fussy, is okay.
However food aside, the main attraction has to be the atmosphere. I don’t actually trust anyone who is snobby about the The Jolly – and these people do exist. Okay, okay the place is big, bright, bustling, filled with kitsch, and may seem ever so slightly chaotic – don’t be fooled, the place runs like a well-oiled machine. But that is why it’s so authentically Italian – there are couples sitting alongside large parties ‘in for The Playhouse’, local single Leithers ‘in for their tea’, delighted tourists and the occasional inebriated local politician (it is rumoured that Alex Salmond gets his pizzas delivered from here but I haven’t actually seen ‘the Pie Man’ on the premises!). Honestly, the only thing missing from the total Napoli experience is the priest sitting in the corner watching the football on the telly. A telly in The Jolly? OMG, that might just be too much!
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