This is my favourite lunch place in Southend, and today I treated myself to it for a late lunch (late for annoying reasons, hence the treat). And oh, look, they have a peanut butter brownie.
It’s not exaggeration to say that Pasta Pia is a shining beacon of light in a generally dim and dull Southend food scene. I don’t really remember the first time I went for lunch there, but I do remember at first assuming that it was named for the Southend pier, which is the longest leisure pier in the world and is also basically the only notable thing about Southend. It turns out that Pasta Pia is instead named for the two main things that it sells: pasta and piadinas. If you don’t know what a piadina is, neither did I at the time: it turns out that it’s a thin Italian flatbread from the Romagna region. If you think that sounds basically like a pizza, then you’re more or less in agreement with the people of Southend who seem to demand that piadinas be more or less exactly like thin-crust pizzas.
If you’re from Southend, and/or are getting annoyed with my disparaging tone, understand that I’m just very sick of working in Southend each and every week. Blame it on my liberal London metropolitan elite tendencies if you like. I’m sure Southend is a very nice place to live in really, and all I see of it is the same set of takeaway restaurants and hotels, so of course familiarity is going to breed contempt!
Anyway, Pasta Pia does absolutely delicious foods, and I chose it both for my birthday lunch last year and for my leaving lunch earlier this year. I’ve filled up more loyalty cards there than I can count, even if I always forget to cash those loyalty cards in somehow. I’ve had exactly one disappointing meal from there, and even then, it was disappointing in the sense of “Oh, this isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as I was hoping it would be really.” If there was justice in the world then Pasta Pia would be at the head of a huge national franchise, but then that might somewhat ruin the effect. One of the things I particularly like about them is that they’re very definitely a family-style business. One summer they were closed for three weeks because they all wanted to go on holiday at the same time, and while that’s a shame if you want delicious pasta, you can’t fault the culture that takes that attitude.
Pasta Pia is also the example of the very best customer service I have ever received. I go there reasonably often: enough that I’m recognised sometimes, if not always. I have a ‘standard’ order (tagliatelle apollo) but I branch out often enough that this probably couldn’t be described as my ‘usual’. What’s more predictable is that I’ll often order a double espresso, and drink it while waiting for the pasta (it’s all freshly made, and the tagliatelle takes 5-10 minutes). It makes me feel all cultured and European. The espresso is Lavazza, so it’s pretty good coffee as well.
Anyway, this one time I went to Pasta Pia with a couple of colleagues, and ordered what was probably tagliatelle apollo. The server said “Would you like anything else with that?” and, although it hadn’t actually been my plan, I said “Sure, I’ll have a double espresso for here.” The server nodded and turned around to the coffee machine, where I saw there was a double espresso freshly made; he picked it up and handed it to me.
He had made an espresso for me before I even knew I wanted it.
Logic, of course, says that this was coincidence, or that he had made it for another customer and decided to just give it to me and make a second one, but screw logic. This was fucking impressive.
Anyway, they also have a peanut butter brownie.
Taste: Shockingly, it tastes of peanut butter. It also tastes of brown sugar, which seems to be here in abundance, especially on the brownie crust. It doesn’t taste very much of chocolate, but that’s ok: it’s sweet but not sickly with just the right balance of the peanut butter. 8/10
Texture: So it looks like it might be quite dry, and indeed it is. I’m curious if this is a feature of peanut butter brownies? Granted, Konditor mostly avoided it, but all the peanut butter blondies I’ve ever eaten have been drier than the average brownie. It’s not awful, though, and I actually like how the crust is a bit crunchy as a result of brown sugar. 5/10
Presentation: I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I do rather like how it looks. Maybe it’s the avant-garde shape where one half of the brownie seems to have quite vigorously climbed up the side of the baking tin. Maybe it’s the multiple strong colour delineations. Maybe it’s that Pasta Pia is a great place to eat a brownie in. 4/5
Value: It’s a sizeable brownie, probably about twice the size of your average bakery/coffee shop brownie, which means I think it deserves to cost £3.50. It’s a lot bigger than most brownies in the £3 range, even if it’s not as high in quality. I certainly enjoyed eating it all the way through, so I think it’s an 8/10
Fudge Factor: I like Pasta Pia, to an extent that probably surpasses rationality. 3/5
Overall Score: 28
Should I Buy And Eat This Brownie?
Well, let me put it this way. You should definitely go to Pasta Pia if you’re ever in Southend for lunch. And if while there you fancy a peanut butter brownie, who am I to stop you?
It’s nice to have a hobby again!