It’s always good to take a bit of alone time to gather your thoughts and focus on looking after yourself. Being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely or feeling isolated though, it can be empowering – and pizza always helps.
Whether I’m walking in Richmond Park and along the River Thames or chilling with a book in an independent cafe like Fork Deli, I sometimes make an effort to be on my own. When I was invited to try dining alone at Pizza Union Aldgate, I jumped at the chance and took the short trip there on the tube from central London. This location is their newest site on Leman Street just by Aldgate East Tube station and is an addition to the other restaurants in Spitalfields and King’s Cross.
Pizza Union is a relaxed restaurant with a focus on quick pizza done well. I’ve not been to Italy yet but Liv has recently been to Rome and I assume the local fare is very similar. Pizza Union cook all their 12 inch “superfast” pizzas fresh in a proper Italian-style pizza oven which is ornately decorated with mosaic tiles.
I got there after work and grabbed a stool at a table by the window – a perfect spot for some people-watching and keeping an eye on the open-plan kitchen area. Orders are taken at the till as you enter and you pay when you order just like in Nando’s meaning you can leave whenever you’re done. You’re given a buzzer (similar to other restaurants like the Italian chain Vapiano) that will buzz as soon as all your food is ready to collect. This isn’t immediately clear when walking in so there were a few confused faces while I was there.
The place was pretty laid-back with lots of small groups gathered around the tables both inside and outside with a few others dining alone or with friends.
Pizza Union also fits perfectly into the cheap eats category with pretty much all the pizzas on the menu priced under £6, which can be very rare for a main meal in London. The 50p dips include: Garlic and Herb, Hot Chilli and extra Parmesan. You can also get snacks like Mixed Olives and Chilli Mix nuts for £1.90.
The focus is on Italian products and they stock Moretti and Peroni as the Italian beers in normal and the large 660ml bottles. Italian wines are also available as well as Prosecco, San Pellegrino and other standard soft drinks with everything available for take-away too!
I ordered the extra-meaty Carne (with chicken, beef, pepperoni and onions) – £6.50, and the Bianca (garlic flatbread with mozzarella, garlic and rosemary) – £2.95. The majority of the pizzas are priced between £3.95 for the standard Margherita up to around £6 with a few veggie options and the option of gluten-free dough. There are also three salads also available for under £4 and you can also add unlimited extra pizza toppings for just £1 each.
While I waited for my order, some cool house and dance music played but I could still hear myself think which was brilliant and I found myself vibing along at the table a few times without noticing. My food arrived at the counter and the buzzer vibrated so I went and collected my plates of food. Not only was it abundant, it was also delicious. Perfect portions for sharing, but I’d been saving myself all day for this meal and damn was I hungry.
The pizza bases were thin and large with plenty of meat as expected. The cheesy garlic bread was also a good size. I found the pizzas crispy but not hard and crunchy like some thin bases can be. My only reservation was that the dough seemed to be a bit sweet for some reason, but the toppings were amazing and stayed on well instead of dribbling off everywhere.
The napkins could have been more obvious when collecting the pizzas as someone that eats pizza with my hands – I couldn’t see where to get them for a while and also saw a few others searching too.
There was a mix of young and older people, with students and families eating side by side including on the outdoor seats. I’d gone on a sunny Friday night and there were even quite a few Italians eating there. My window seat looked out onto the Black Horse pub in Aldgate which had a buzzing Friday trade and a mini roof garden too – maybe one for another time!
Even on a Friday evening, Pizza Union Aldgate wasn’t super packed aside from a bit of a takeaway rush around 7pm. Attentive staff walked around making conversation and clearing tables as soon as people left.
I decided I had to give the Italian Dolci (desserts) a try! The Classico – a warm ring of dough filled with Nutella and mascarpone sounded great but unlike most people, I’m not a massive fan of Nutella (or hazelnuts in general) and I’d already had a bit too much dough! Luckily, I could choose from a stacked freezer of my favourite gelato provided by Italian chain Oddono’s Gelati who have branches all over London.
The selection included Cookies & Cream, Mango Sorbet, Chocolate and Tiramisu. I went for the Salted Caramel but it was a little hard so I waited for it to melt a little bit before tucking into it and the small chocolate drops inside. Obviously, as the ice-cream was not made onsite I can’t credit this to them but they made a brilliant choice and it was very relevant to the Italian theme.
The chilled vibes, music, pizza and beer reminded me a bit of this place Void we visited in Rio de Janeiro but slightly less crazy.
I give Pizza Union a solid 8.5/10 as well as recommending it as one of the best spots I’ve been to in London to dine alone! Give it a try now in Aldgate, Spitalfields or Kings’s Cross.