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Jonathan Schofield finds Oca succeeding in everything but the main event

Written by . Published on October 9th 2007.


It was busy on the Cheshire Ring Riviera last Saturday. The Sale passegiata had begun and the couples were strolling by the waterfront, their children giggling and running hither, and inevitably, thither. God was in his heaven, the sun was setting in a big affectionate red glow and even the truculent youth in tracksuits seemed cheerful about their future. Or maybe they’d twigged it was magic mushroom season.

This is reasonable enough until things morph so much they become freaks. Our trio of Oca pizzas, had lost all sense of proportion and balance, they were the lunatics of the pizza world.

This was Waterside Plaza in unassuming Sale. It was so nice, if not exactly Nice, that a family decision was made to visit Oca, the much praised pizzeria that occupies the west side of the splendidly conceived new square between the Town Hall and the Bridgewater Canal.

It was the outside planting that tempted us. This is a treat, colourful, thoughtful and enticing. Oca is less charming inside but it makes up for this by slick décor and clever use of witty and bright artworks.

Fizzy water, lemonades and a glass of Pinot Grigio later we were studying the menu. Oca does pizza, along with a few salads and pasta dishes, as per the Pizza Express formula pioneered a couple of decades ago.

The point of difference at Oca lies with the odd ingredients, which means they can call their products ‘gourmet pizzas’. We chose three that embodied these peculiarities: the Filleto, a Peking Duck and an Andalucia. The main feature of the first was steak strips, of the second, duck with plum and hoisin sauce, and of the third, goats cheese and ‘rustic’ chorizo (as opposed to ‘urban’ chorizo from city pigs perhaps?).

None of these are the sort of thing you’d expect in the back-streets of Naples. But hey this is Middle England so what’s wrong with a bit of creativity, even playfulness: that’s what happens when cuisines morph during migration.
This is reasonable enough until things morph so much they become freaks. Our trio lost all sense of proportion and balance, they became the lunatics of the pizza world.

For instance, the plum and hoisin sauce was smeared over the Peking Duck pizza base like the bloody aftermath of a pub brawl. It was ok for one slice, after that it was sickly and cloying despite the industrial amounts of cucumber and spring onions sliced over the top.

It was the same with the Filleto and Andalucia. The Filleto’s steak slices were tasteless and too heavy a topping for a pizza, the Andalucia’s goats’ cheese was a challenge and made a mess of the chorizo. All three were gruesome to look at.

Then there was the red onion. Oca must own a red onion farm which has just had a bumper harvest they can’t get rid of. The throat was battered by so much red onion on the Filleto and the Andalucia that the rest of the flavours didn’t have a chance.

We had come to Oca genuinely looking forward to pleasant food – I’d visited a couple of years ago and couldn’t remember the pizzas being so strange. It was disappointing given the local reputation. Not one of the pizzas was finished. The ten year old child, to pass the time whilst we finished the drinks, even resorted to drawing a pretty good Henry VIII on the paper top sheet of the table. Very good son - but this meant that we had to feed him again when we got home.

Oca is popular, well-appointed and has good service. But its big feature is the pizza, and from a critical point of view, these need to be simplified. Maybe, as with German beer, there should be pizza purity laws which regulate the type of ingredients you can use. Some foods, just like wheels, don’t need re-inventing.

Some foods need the word ‘gourmet’ like a hole in the head.

Rating: 12/20
Breakdown: Food 4/10
Service 4/5
Ambience 4/5

Unit 2
Waterside Plaza

0161 962 666

Mon-Sat 11.30pm-11pm, Sun noon-10.30pm

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24 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousOctober 9th 2007.

I went to oca with my friend last Saturday and was concerned with how quiet it was. Normally you're queuing at the door and ushered to the bar to drink cocktails whilst you wait for a table. We both ordered salads and were pleased with our choices. Unfortunately my friend was slightly ill when she got home and swears she'll never eat goats cheese & fig tart again - nothing to do with the cocktails, wine and beers we consumed!!!!

mOctober 9th 2007.

You wouldn't expect a curry to be steak and kidney pie flavour so leave the pizza alone. How can they, or similar establishments have the audacity to call it a pizza. Ooo it makes me mad!

GordoOctober 9th 2007.

John in hulme: Pink. fatty breasts? omigod. Good or bad?

david addisonOctober 9th 2007.

Never eaten at Oca but I am a regular Sunday night customer of croma. The bad news is it appears to have "gone off" The last two visits I have made havent been anywhere near the satisfaction level you would expect ,whether they have become complacent or too wrapped up in new ventures is not for me to say,but I wont be rushing back d its a shame,the problem is where can you get a good pizza? any answers?

markOctober 9th 2007.

if you dont like fancy ingredients on a pizza then dont order them, knowbody was forcing you too ?i agree with neil you should have ordered a regular pizza for a comparrisonwhat were the bases like ?

paul cooksonOctober 9th 2007.

"you can also get great pizza in Saddleworth at The Dinnerstone restaurant food and drink very reasonable and great atmosphere"

YorkieOctober 9th 2007.

Can't say what Oca's like recently but I tried the Filleto pizza there a couple of months ago and it was great. The ingredients were well balanced and it delivered just what it promised - an unusual take on pizza. On my visit I also had a starter, pud and coffer, all of which were really good. The service was friendly and attentive without being a nuisance. I was so pleased with the experience that I asked to see the manager to thank him. He was taken aback and said "people only want to see me to complain usually..." (Clue - or human nature? You decide...)ANOTHER worth a try... Had the lunch deal at Bella Roma in the city centre earlier this week. The Pizza Bella Roma was great - good base and restrained but tasty topping, with good service, a coke and service charge all included for £5.50. Suits me, sir!

charlie jonesOctober 9th 2007.

'Gourmet' is becoming a tired excuse for premium prices and average fare. Gourmet Burgers are rarely anything of the kind and Oca's gourmet pizzas (which of anything is surely the part of the menu they should be getting right) are a joke. Both of our visits left us trying to work out if were paying for the irony.

AlexOctober 9th 2007.

I've eaten at Oca a few times over the pat 3 years, never been anything less than completely happy with the quality of the food there.

ScorpioOctober 9th 2007.

I live in Sale and have been to Oca plenty of times- and haven't been happy with the experience the last few (why keep going you ask- funky ambience and nice little bar rare in Sale). Food ranges from mediocre to poor; service the same (once- starters served same time as main; which was re-presented congealed & lukewarm 20 mins later). NO surprise it seems to be getting emptier and emptier......

neilOctober 9th 2007.

The reviewer made my point right at the end. There's no need to try these stupid things on pizzas just to be clever. Imagine going to Rome and asking one of their pizza places to do you a Chinese pizza with plum sauce. You'd be laughed out of the place. Or sent to a Chinese restaurant. Pizza needs to be kept simple. Having said that...could the reviewer go back and order something 'normal' and report back? They may have a far more pleasant (and filling) experience.

scottOctober 9th 2007.

croma is equally as awful, stupid toppings! a fried egg on a pizza, whats that all about!matt and phreds anyday for the best pizza

buckersOctober 9th 2007.

Great writing schoey love the opening gag. been to occa a couple of times found it quite good. you cant however beat classic combos on your pizza, i am a long standing regular of the Olive Press city center, best pizza in town.

AnonymousOctober 9th 2007.

I always thought the pizza at felicini's on oxford road was pretty good. I went there a few times and always enjoyed it and the service is always good. If you go try the calzone, it's awesome. I went to Zizi's the other week and they do a similar menu to felicini but i found it a little heavy and stodgy for me.

markOctober 9th 2007.

can't believe anyone llikes olive press. another of paul 'i don't give a toss about service' heathcote's crappy restaurants.

the dough boyOctober 9th 2007.

this place looks dreadful , a stop off for drunken 18 year olds on the way to the bar next door for an alcopop , head to Marcellos , Hale for a pizza to remember !

BethOctober 9th 2007.

You can get great pizza at Danilo's in Hale village - the prices are very reasonable and the pizzas are just beautiful - not a gourmet topping in sight!

SteveOctober 9th 2007.

tiz a little ott, visit croma in chorlton or the city center for a far greater experiance.

John in HulmeOctober 9th 2007.

It's not gourmet pizzas per se that are the problem - look at Croma. It wrote the book on unusual and surprising. The Chicken Tikka pizza remains a favourite. Worst pizza ever? Duck at Holiday Inn Southampton. Pink fatty breasts. Gah.

VikkiOctober 9th 2007.

I went in the summer and was so disappointed - it's such a great looking place but the pizza bases appeared to have been bought in, which I would not have expected. It was stodgy and horrible. Give me Croma anyday of the week - best pizza in Manchester!

Victoria RichardsonOctober 9th 2007.

Agree with the points made about the 'gourmet' pizzas but these unusual pizzas make up only a small section of the menu. Surely the reviewer should have tried a normal pizza, a gourmet one and perhaps a salad rather than ordering 3 unusual pizzas and then moaning about them. The review is very unfair and unbalanced.

AnonymousOctober 9th 2007.

we moved to sale about a year ago and went to oca frequently, we found the food good and the service friendly. after a couple of months of not going, we visited over the summer, and vowed never to go back. Everything we ordered was horrible, the garlic bread for starter was like a supermarket value brand, the thai chicken pizza was the most revolting thing (the congealed sauce almost made me vomit) we both sent our main course back and re ordered but were equally unimpressed with our second choices.the manager did kindly offer us a refund on our first main dishes, but being so unimpressed with our replacement meals, we will never go back again.

AnonymousOctober 9th 2007.

best pizzas where at mash in manchester when it was open.since closing everyone has tried to do the duck pizza they did but still not the same.but credit to croma the best place for a pizza in the city and the next best to mash pizza's.

wayneOctober 9th 2007.

I love Felicinis on Oxford Road, I love the view of the crap on the canal, the surly service and the poorly presented food. it's just about the worst fake Italian in the city.

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