When you’re a student or on a tight budget it can be quite difficult to find places to dine out. In Newcastle I find that there are so many amazing restaurants which I am happy to pay a bit extra for their food and service because it is exceptional. However, I do struggle when it comes to having a nice meal which tastes good but won’t break the bank.
My old house mate came to visit me for the day and we had planned on going out for dinner in the early evening of a Thursday. Knowing me I thought she would ask me to know somewhere which was open early, relatively cheap food but good quality taste and value. Instead, she was the one who suggested a place in Jesmond called Cal’s Own. If you know Jesmond well it is located on Holly Avenue next to three or four other shops and stores. Basically its up from Antico on Osbourne Road.
This authentic Neapolitan pizza restaurant opened at 5pm and we were the first ones to open the doors. Their Italian wooden-fire oven was on full show of the restaurant which I love seeing the chefs at work. I think there is an honesty about how the chefs make the food when you can see the kitchen from your table which many Italian restaurants are starting to do. We were seated in the middle of the restaurant with a clear view of everything enabling us to take in the ambiance which happened to pick up once we got our drinks.
The idea behind this authentic Italian hotspot is all about its famous pizzas. Creating your own meal is recommend as you can make the flavours suited to your palette. So, how does it work? If you’re going all out there are some unusual starter courses compared to the chain of Italians in Newcastle. Eggplant parmigiana and pig cheeks are the two different ones. Other than that the usual suspects of deep fried arancini and meatball marinara are also a choice to start your dining off. If like my friend and I, you are just going for the main event you’re in for a treat. Does anyone remember that pizza place that used to be on the Quayside which was replaced by Gusto? The one where kids could make their own pizza and get a chefs hat but the place always had kitchen fires? Imagine the adult version of that except you don’t get a hat or a fire in the kitchen.
Firstly, select your base. A classic margarita for £9.95 involves fiordilatte mozzarella, fresh basil, a pinch of sea salt and extra virgin oil. For a bit extra cash the Bianca Doppio gets you a double portion of mozzarella di bufala Campana (DOP) on top of the margarita base for just £13.10. The most expensive base to choose from is the calzone Napolitano for £14.65. A combination of mozzarella, ricotta, mushroom, garlic, basil, salt and DOP tomato sauce creates the base to be folded over. Once you have chosen your toppings the chef stone bakes your calzone, deep fries it and then finishes it off in the wood-fired oven. I think an empty stomach would be needed to tackle that base alone.
There are over 20 different toppings to choose, from meat and poultry to vegetables and Italian cheeses there really isn’t any complaining to be had. Cal’s Own offers its customers a pick of three toppings for free and any more for a cost of £1-£5.75. Extras of the likes of garlic, chilli flakes and balsamic glaze can also be ordered for pennies not pounds. My friend being a vegetarian went for red peppers, mushrooms and black olives for her three and I went for chicken, red onion and red peppers on top of my chosen base. Both of us also got a pot of garlic mayonnaise.
Normally I would never order sides if I have chosen a pizza but the truffle chips sounded amazing especially for just £3.65. So we ordered a portion to share and thank god we did because the bowl was huge! For such a low price we weren’t expecting a lot. The golden and crispy potato lengths were covered with grated grana Padano (DOP), white truffle oil and Sicilian sea salt. And my lord…best chips I have ever had! Truffle oil is my new favourite topping for chips.
Overall we both had a lovely evening dining at Cal’s Own. The pizza was amazing, the truffle chips were phenomenal and the staff were lovely. The authentic feeling really carries through the restaurant adding to the ambiance. For a full pizza each, half a bowl of chips, garlic mayo and a bottle of lemonade we ended up paying £18 each. A great place for students or even just a cheaper and more original Italian in one of the budding areas of Newcastle. Need more persuading? Lets face it you’re not going to find a better name for an Italian restaurant when Cal’s Own takes punning to the next level.