- Food & Drink
We guess they’re going to the same place we are. There’s no other reason to stroll along this wasteland of a road. We’re heading to Forza Dispensa, this summer’s incarnation of Forza Win. Previously rooftop pizza slingers in the East End, this year they’ve turned into Peckham meat merchants. Proof, if nothing else, that Hackney is over and the hipsters have waded through the river to despoil the Promised Land (South London).
Forza Dispensa’s schtick is spiedini and spritzes, or meat on a stick and bitter booze to those of us whose Italian hasn’t got much passed ‘lasagne’. Like Forza Win’s previous pop-ups, the concept is simple: you buy a ticket, which gets you a welcome drink and a three-course meal served family style on battered platters that I covet every year.
The rest of the fixtures and fittings I’m happy to leave in Bash’s tender care. Decoration is so minimal you could argue it doesn’t exist at all. White paint and sheets of chipboard are the key elements. My group sits around the end of one of the long, communal MDF tables, which are wide enough to ensure conversation soon reaches bellowing point. And the first thing we roar at each other is: ‘Christ, these spritzes are bitter.’
Tasting like a fennel and wormwood cocktail, the spritzes act as encouragement to order off the companionably priced natural wine list. We opt for a bottle of Ciu Ciu Bacchus Rosso Piceno, a spicy Sangiovese whose easy drinkability we only fully appreciate the next morning.
Our meal begins with bowls of caponata, chewy sourdough and jars of pesto. Bash recommends we pile the oil-soaked mishmash of vegetables onto the bread, spoon pesto over the top and ram it into our faces. Leonard, whose family hails from Genova is, to say the least, skeptical about this combination of Northern and Southern Italian dishes. Eventually she agrees to give it a try and concedes that it’s ‘quite nice’.
The first of the spiedini are made with chunks of beef rump cap from The Ginger Pig that have been charred over wood. Bold, juicy and, more importantly, they come with the best panzanella in the world. Blindingly good bread (that sourdough again) and pickled red onions seem to be the secret to Forza Win’s panzanella. I’d happily sit down to a bowl of it by itself. Some might say that, by ever so slightly hogging the bowl over dinner, I almost did.
Stick two is a skewer of 100-day-old chicken, which came with a pea and bean salad I absolutely adored (somewhere along the line I seem to have become obsessed with vegetables). In between the singing – we’ll come back to the singing – the jars of pesto make their revolutions around the table. This is messy eating. My fingers are sticky with salad dressing and chicken grease. You could argue I should use my fork more, but something about Forza encourages you to abandon cutlery and compete ruthlessly for paper napkins.
The only duff note of the meal is pudding: an overset panna cotta with raspberry sauce artlessly dribbled over the top. It tasted nice but was as bouncy as a recently remodelled buttock. I ate the lot anyway, hoping it would help soak up some of the wine and prevent a hangover. It didn’t.
The food is only part of the reason to come to Forza Win. The big draw is the atmosphere. Forza Win taps into the kind of well meaning mania that you normally find at weddings or on the last day of school. It was Wet Wet Wet’s Love Is All Around that set our crowd off (which gives you a clue of roughly how cutting edge Peckham is these days).
I hadn’t even noticed it had come on the sound system, but a group at the table next to us had. When the chorus kicked in, so did they, wailing: “You know I love you, I always will” with the kind of gusto you find in karaoke bars at midnight. Halfway through the second verse they began to trail off, possibly realising no one should be that keen on Marti Pellow. But Leonard was having none of it. She jumped up on her chair and, as the chorus crashed in for the second time, screamed: “EVERYBODY!”
And that was it. For the rest of the night the room sang along with the iPod, demanding increasingly poptastic tunes (the number of people who know all the moves to S Club Party is heartening). We danced on the tables. We danced on the chairs. When we became nervous about how well the tables and chairs would stand up to our dancing, we danced on the floor.
A kind of cheerful, companionable drunkeness descended on the room. The kind you find at family parties, when everyone has decided that they do love each other after all and Nana demonstrates just how low she can go during The Twist.
Forza Dispensa was open for the summer only, but Forza’s Twitter feed is already hinting at wintry things to come. Tickets sell reasonably fast, so if you ever feel the desire to eat dinner and take part in a spontaneous Erasure sing-along, keep your eye on their website.