They like their pizza big in New York. They also like it hand-stretched, thin-based, crisp-crusted and cooked in a brick oven. And if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere - even in Westbourne Grove, W2.
Billed as London's only authentic New York pizza joint, Mulberry Street serves up one mother of a pizza. Hand-stretched to a whopping 20-inch diameter, and topped with anything you like from chicken parmesan to pepperoni, Italian meatballs or even Beluga caviar, it is a daunting prospect to all but the totally famished.
In this well-fed part of west London, the totally famished are something of a minority, apart from those starving to fit into their jeans. But you should hear the gasps and groans and omigods whenever a pizza hits the table. Everyone complains that their pizza is absurdly big, impossible to do justice to; and suddenly it's gone - they've eaten it all.
It's this over-the-top, supersize-me nature of things that seems to be the New York contribution. Owner Maria O'Connor, a former marketing professional, wanted to create a slice of downtown Brooklyn neighbourliness in Westbourne Grove, serving up not just 20-inch pizza but hero sandwiches, root beer and cream soda. There's a life-size walk/don't walk traffic signal in the window, and a fun mural of Times Square at the rear of the long bar and kitchen. Here you can lounge around in one of the big purple leather booths or prop yourself on a stool at the long bar to browse through the latest download of the New York Post ("$3MILL IN FACELIFT DEATH"), or catch up with the latest NBA game on the large TV screens.
As it happens, Mulberry Street is more Italian than American, with pizza chef Giuseppe Ferri, executive chef Nicola di Prete, and manager Luca Riccio hailing not from Brooklyn, but from Naples. And thank the lord for that.
It means instead of American-style pastrami and baloney, a "cold cuts" platter (£10.95) comes with thinly sliced, lush, soft mortadella, good, fungal-smelling salami, sweet, nutty prosciutto and three little balls of curdy, creamy, buffalo mozzarella.
A rocket, spinach and parmesan salad (£4.95) is tired, and spaghetti or penne comes with "Milly's meat balls" (£7) which sound promising, but are bready, meatloaf-like slices rather than crusty balls.
And the pizza? It's good, scoring points for its thin crust and bubbled crisp edges. The Classic (tomato, mozzarella and basil £14.99) is too cheesy, but then I always say that about pizza. And I don't understand the American toppings (why would anyone want a chicken schnitzel pizza?). A New York Hot, with pepperoni, fresh pepper, jalapeno and mozzarella (£17.99) isn't hot at all, but hey, pizza is pizza. As always, the first slice is the best and it palls soon after that, until you wonder why you ever found it attractive. On my second visit, I order a pizza by the slice (£3.50) but the dough is still raw in the middle. So that doesn't work.
Resisting the urge to try a chocolate pizza slathered with Nutella (not difficult), I try a home-made cupcake (£3.50), but the heat from the pizza oven has turned the butter icing into something not very nice. If that's happening now, how hot is this place going to be in July?
A good, simple, 10-bottle wine list focuses mainly on Italian with a rich, full-blooded Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico (£24.95) being the best value for money.
Mulberry Street is good fun, full of chirpy southern Italians and casual, holiday sort of food based on unexpectedly good-quality produce. The question is, does the world need a New York pizzeria more than it needs a great Italian pizzeria? All the best things here are from Italy, not America - the thin-crusted, hand-made pizza, the prosciutto, mortadella, and ricotta, the Peroni, the coffee. The New York effect may only add another five centimetres, but the distance between the US and Italy has never been so great.
SCORES 1-9 STAY HOME AND COOK 10-11 NEEDS HELP 12 OK 13 PLEASANT ENOUGH 14 GOOD 15 VERY GOOD 16 CAPABLE OF GREATNESS 17 SPECIAL, CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK 18 HIGHLY HONOURABLE 19 UNIQUE AND MEMORABLE 20 AS GOOD AS IT GETS
Mulberry Street, 84 Westbourne Grove, London W2, tel: 020 7313 6789
Open daily, noon to midnight. Around £55 for two, including drinks and service
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