When I lived in London, I used to go to Pizza Express quite often. I loved their Soho pizza, which was basically a Margherita pizza with a mountain of peppery arugula leaves and shaved parmesan balancing on top. It was the perfect answer to ‘Should I have a pizza or a salad?’ But for some unknown reason, the Soho pizza seems to have disappeared from Pizza Express’ menu – at least I haven’t been able to find it in their restaurants in Dubai or on Pizza Express’s UK website.
In Dubai, I don’t go to Pizza Express quite so often for the simple reason that there is no branch which is particularly close to me. However, I recently went to a children’s bookstore near Jumeirah’s Park & Shop trying to hunt down a very specific book for Christmas. Right next to the bookstore is a Pizza Express, so I decided to pop in with my little one for a quick lunch. This branch of Pizza Express is admittedly a little tired-looking and for some reason it has a rather distracting television screen mounted on the wall, but I felt like eating a good pizza and I knew I could count on Pizza Express to give me one.
I scanned the menu for the Soho Pizza (even though I knew I wouldn’t find it). Disappointed, I questioned our waiter about whether he knew why it has been taken off the menu, to which he answered with a shrug of his shoulders.
And then on my table I saw a picture of something which looked a lot like the Soho Pizza. It’s called the Leggera Pizza. Not exactly the Soho Pizza, but more like the Soho Pizza’s skinny cousin. Coming in at under 500 calories, it’s actually quite an ingenious idea. The Leggera a cross between a pizza and a salad. Instead of having a full circular base, the Leggera crust is in the shape of a ring. The hole in the middle is filled with rocket leaves, shaved ricotta cheese (which is lighter than parmesan but also less flavorful) and a drizzle of thick balsamic syrup.
There are several varieties of the Leggera pizza. In Dubai, the Leggera comes in three varieties of toppings:
1. American Leggera – pepperoni, light mozzarella and tomato (AED 44 = USD 12)
2. Polo Ad Astra Leggera – chicken, light mozzarella, sweet peppadew peppers, cajun spice, garlic oil and red onions (AED 46 = USD 12.50)
3. Pomodoro Pesto Leggera – light mozzarella, santos tomatoes, fresh basil and pesto genovese (AED 46 = USD 12.50)
(The UK branches have a fourth, Padana Leggera – goat’s cheese, spinach, red & caramelised onions, and garlic oil).
I ordered the American Leggera, which was served with a round pizza cutter on an attractive charcoal gray slab rather than their regular white plate. I was very impressed with the crust. It was thin and crisp all the way through, even in the center of the ring where the crust meets the salad. The proportion of salad, shaved ricotta, balsamic syrup and pizza are well balanced. And for those who are watching their calorie intake, this less-than-500-calorie meal is an amazing way to satisfy your pizza craving without feeling guilty.
However, there is something you should be aware of before ordering a Leggera pizza. Because the crust is very thin and they use only a sparse amount of light mozzarella, the flavors of the toppings really come through strongly. I found the pepperoni ever so slightly over-powering, but it comes down to preference and it turns out I’m not such a huge fan of pepperoni after all. I would happily order a Leggera pizza again, but I think next time I would try one of the other flavors – I have my eye on the Pomodoro Pesto Leggera (light mozzarella, santos tomatoes, fresh basil and pesto genovese).
So here’s the lowdown on Pizza Express’ Leggera Pizza, which comes in at less than 500 calories:
- Crust – an ingenious thin and crispy ring-shaped crust means that the bread component of the pizza is kept to the bare minimum
- Sauce – nice, simple tomato sauce makes a delicious base for the other flavors
- Light Mozzarella – calories are kept down by using about half the amount of mozzarella that they use on their regular pizzas
- Toppings – the flavor of the toppings dominates the thin crust and light mozzarella, so make sure you order toppings that you love
- Lettuce – baby arugula leaves give a nice fresh kick to the pizza
- Shaved ricotta – while the shaved ricotta cheese is not as flavorful as parmesan would be, it’s mellow flavor still adds a nice contrast to the salad leaves
- Balsamic syrup – yum yum
Al Safa Centre (Park-n-Shop)
Wasl Road, Jumeirah, Dubai
Telephone: +971 4 3945616
(Dine-in, Takeaway & Delivery)
Opening hours :
Sat – Fri: 11.30 am – 12.00 midnight
Disclaimer: I visited Pizza Express privately and paid for my own meal.