Eating out tends to offer more pain than pleasure these days.
With renewed optimism each time I promise myself it will be different, the boys will remain seated for longer than 30 seconds, there will be no whinging for the food to arrive, the meal will be eaten and my husband and I will be able to leisurely chat and savour our food while our children entertain themselves beautifully with colouring.
So inevitably we end up in establishments where our toddlers are more likely to blend in: Pizza Hut and, dare I say it, MaccyDs. Not my idea of fun. Or good wholesome food.
But then I met business partners Paul and Brian. Two family men (with five kids between them) who wanted to do something a bit different with Exeter pizzeria, Pizza Stein, on the quay. By day, they want to put family at the heart of their restaurant, create a relaxed open atmosphere and serve real Napoli pizzas, made from the best, fresh ingredients. None of this frozen, processed nonsense.
Make your own
My son and I popped along one Monday lunchtime.
We were in for an extra special treat because at Pizza Stein (if it’s not too busy), kids are encouraged to make their own pizza.
At the counter, mini apron on, my son kneaded the dough, spread the San Marzano sauce and sprinkled on cheese and basil. He was totally absorbed by the task thanks to the attentive pizza chef, Pieto, and the very lovely Addam, who was a total natural with my son.
My son demolished his pizza – and he is one of the fussiest eaters who’s staple lunch is a ham sandwich.
The real deal
Pizza Stein follows strict Napoli rules. You can read all these rules on their website but the key ones that stand out are that pizzas must be cooked in a dome-shaped wood-burning stove, only San Marzano tomatoes from the plains of Mount Vesuvius and certified mozzarella di bufala campana D.O.P (made with the milk from water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio) should be used – bit of a mouthful but you can see why this place is no Pizza Hut. The base must be formed by hand. Margherita and Marinara are the only two true pizzas but you can also buy a ‘Topper’s board’ with delights like anchovies, salami and chilli flakes to add yourself.
This lack of choice may put some people off but I welcome the opportunity to make an easy decision – and surely quality is better than quantity?
If pizza isn’t your thang, there are salads and charcuterie boards to choose from.
Pizza Bambini Toddler Club
I totally bought in to Paul and Brian’s passion for food and enthusiasm to welcome families – so much that I’ve been running a Mumsnet Exeter Pizza Bambini lunch club with them and Brian’s super efficient, wonderful wife, Helen.
There aren’t many trendy restaurants who would open their doors to a horde of unruly toddlers – but Pizza Stein did on a number of occasions. Lots of the mums commented on the friendliness of the staff and the relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant. They had a blast.
So, if you’re looking for an eatery in Exeter that you and your children can enjoy, head to Pizza Stein for a fun, learning experience that won’t send your kids loopy on e-numbers.
Pizza Stein, 4 The Quay, open daily 11.30am until late.