Wimbledon dog track; light industrial units; a building supplies warehouse. The attractions of Summerstown – a no-man’s land between Tooting and Earlsfield – won’t place it on many cultural excursions to London. But at Figli del Vesuvio ('sons of Vesuvius'), some enterprising Neapolitan lads are recreating a slice of their home city. Of course there's no vista of Mount Vesuvius or the Bay of Naples; instead, a few tables are optimistically placed outside, facing the mini-roundabout. Yet despite the unpromising location the place was filled with lively Italian hubbub, and we were the only non-Italian customers.
A wood-fired oven belts out a Mediterranean heat, warming the small indoor dining area. Sit by the oven and you can admire the craft of the pizzaiolo as he spins the dough with his muscular and heavily tattooed arms. The traditional Italian toppings are assembled to order, and might include friarelli (‘turnip top’ winter greens), juicy sausage, or tender artichoke hearts. After just a few minutes the pizza is taken from the oven to reveal a perfect crust that’s just slightly blackened, while the base stays elastic. Served piping hot seconds later, you won’t find better in south-west London.
Saltimbocca’s also on the menu, if you’d prefer thinly-sliced rolls of veal; or there are pasta options. But everyone on our visit was ordering pizza. Arriving hungry? Order the a’frittura, a mixed plate of deep-fried pizza dough balls with fillings such as mozzarella or flavoured rice. There’s a predictable selection of dreary lagers in the fridge, and a short selection of equally disappointing wines. But the By The Horns brewery tap is a couple of minutes away, and you can bring in your own booze for a modest corkage charge (£1 per head). Come here for the terrific pizza, for the charming repartee, and to soak in an atmosphere that’s as Italian as Sophia Loren serving a bowl of spaghetti.