'Nole on The Square', Salisbury
Updated: Jan 27
Look pizza is simply loved by millions of folk around the globe, so don't go opening a pizza restaurant thinking it's an easy money maker, it isn't. We like to think we have a pretty good background in Italian cuisine ... and that's the only clue you will get about who we are! We know pizza and we know sourdough, we make them and have eaten the best of them. When we go into a pizza joint let me tell you it is gonna have to hit some serious criteria to score high!
So Salisbury is a lovely South West town over looked by the impressive Cathedral and a miss match of old and new architecture. The open squares and green spaces make it a great place for a day out to explore and also to eat out. The large market style square off Minster Street and Ox Row afford an outlook of many European towns with tables and chairs spilling out of the numerous food establishments, the air dizzy with the various delights emerging from busy kitchens. The visitor is not short on choices and competition is fierce, so resturant owners need to be on their metal or get out.
...over looked by the impressive Cathedral and a miss match of old and new architecture."
So we are in a pizza mood and a quick look around and bingo there sits "Nole on the Square.” Now I dunno if the name derives from the small commune near Turin or was just a catchy title but our first impression is good. Looking through the windows, men throwing dough around, chalk boards amidst the covered outside seating area proclaiming "Sourdough." Well bring it on!
You can enter from the market square or the street behind and it feels a little gloomy at first. It‘s sparse downstairs, the seating area is reserved to a window bar affair with wooden stools at the one end, near the other entrance is the kitchen and service bar with 4 or 5 Pizzaiolo (pizza makers), busy getting the lunch service ready. A rack of ovens ready for work. Not traditional pizza ovens but the electric style baking ovens, that’s fine but always worth noting. The oven in a pizza restaurant is as important as the cheese, the dough and the tomatoes.
We are greeted promptly with "would you like to eat in or takeaway?" We opt for the inside option - it’s autumn so cold out and rain is in the air. We are asked to go upstairs to another sparse but clean seating area. It’s quiet but neat with white washed walls and dappled sunshine coming in through the windows.
The menu seems simple enough, smart well organised pizzas, numbered 1 to 6, and a range of sides and drinks as you'd expect. We are alone to start and then joined by a few other customers for lunch. Funny how you get a feeling about a place just sitting and watching what is around you. Eventually the waiter appears from the stairwell, and we place our simple order: a No.5 pizza to share, a side of padron peppers and two tins of "San Pelly" (this is what it is called on their menu). The waiter has a bemused look on his face:
"What’s that?" he asks
"It is on your menu, it’s a drink" I reply
"Never heard it called that before" he responds!
FUNNY how you get a feeling about a place just sitting and watching what is around you...we are not filled with confidence!
Remember that feeling we mentioned a second ago? We are not filled with confidence.
Anyway, we sit and wait patiently, and soon enough our drinks arrive. I decide to use the toilets, which it is worth noting are only upstairs. Clean enough with nice smelly hand lotion - no soap, however, just sanitiser and hand lotion, oh and you can't dry your hands, the dryer is not working, and no paper towels either, so use your jeans to dry your hands!
On returning to the table it is somewhat surprising to see the customers who arrived after us are all tucking into their sides of padron peppers and the kids have their pizzas. This kind of thing gets my goat. We notice the waiter paying more attention to them than anyone else. Head down, not once checking our table - totally ignoring us. No food still - we wait and watch. Eventually, after say 20 minutes a different member of staff brings us the pizza - no side but assume he will return with that in a second. From that moment on nobody returns to our table, no offer of more drinks and as for the side order of peppers, well that never arrived... shame.
The pizza was OK. The dough is sourdough of a sort, not particularly sour in our opinion but that's a personal thing and it was well baked. The topping is also OK, although it seems fashionable at the moment to squirt Nduja paste all over pizza for some reason, perhaps a lack of pepperoni, but it is so strong it can destroy the flavour of anything else on the pizza, including the dough. Admittedly we knew that when ordering, we just feel a small amount goes a long way and there's too much here for our taste. Fresh ingredients on a pizza is what it’s all about, and whilst the mozzarella and chives gave it an air of "fresh" sadly the crispy onions had that "out of a tub" look about them, and are those "San Marzano" tomatoes? Hard to tell as all we can taste is Nduja!!
You know it’s a shame, this little place is quite cool and is in a good location, using an effective plan for a pizza restaurant. The fact is these guys have several other restaurants in the area so they should have it sorted. However it was let down for us by a waiter who hadn't got a clue what was going on. Let’s face it, the waiting staff are the front line of your restaurant; they need to be able to communicate well, know that menu inside out, learn to read the floor, read the faces and have the situational awareness when it’s busy to keep customers happy. It is management’s responsibility to teach new staff and guide them appropriately. It's so much the waiters fault as it is the people in that run the establishment. Communication is so important.
In the end we actually went downstairs to pay because nobody took a blind bit of notice that we had finished our meal. They missed selling more drinks, they missed selling that side order and they missed a desert sale. We reckon they halved what they could have made just because the waiter dropped the ball. Even when paying he had forgotten the side order.
Disappointed was the impression we left with and that’s a great shame. OK, the service wasn't great, but add to that no way of washing or drying hands, the long wait for one OK tasting pizza and we left feeling a little under-whelmed. If you have small kids it is gonna be a faff and wheelchair users will end up having to sit outside or get a takeaway.
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HOW WE SCORED IT - OVERALL 4/10
Food score 5/10
Service Score 3/10
Comms Score 2/10
Disability Access 2/10
Sticky Table 7/10
Value for Money 5/10
What is cost £18.50
What it’s worth £15.00
Will we go back? Not sure we would.