San Ciro’s, Edinburgh

A well-known face in Edinburgh pizza returns in Leith, with new digs and some excellent new ideas

Feature by Peter Simpson | 02 Oct 2023

New homes mean new starts, a chance to spread your wings, to make big dramatic changes before everything has the chance to settle. It’s true in life (hello new and returning students, please do pick up this magazine every month) and it’s true in pizza. After half a decade at the fantastic Pizzeria 1926 in Dalry firing out exceptional Neapolitan pizzas, Ciro Sartore has set up shop at the opposite side of central Edinburgh, in a unit of the Stead’s Place block on Leith Walk.

San Ciro’s is a new place with some new ideas, and an all-new ambience – all of which is to say that it’s a bit bright in here. The decor is surprisingly full-on; rich blue walls, wooden chairs painted canary yellow, lightbulbs so strong they could burn a hole in the table. There’s a wall covered in a piece of SSC Napoli-inspired graffiti art because there’s some stuff that comes along with you in a big move, such as the family's love for the azzuri.

1926 is a standard-bearer for excellent, classic pizza – the only Scottish member of the AVPN, or ‘True Neapolitan Pizza Association’ – and San Ciro’s follows much the same formula but with some genuinely exciting innovations. The Gamberi (£7) is a classic starter of shallow-fried prawns with lemon, except these head-on bad boys look like they could sink a ship if they put their mind to it. Massive lads. Big units. Delicious prawns.

Similarly, a Melanzane (£12) is a classic pizza, but this is an elevated example – the aubergine is in perfectly soft and seemingly skinless matchsticks, and little blobs of seasoned ricotta are dotted around the place. It looks just lovely, plus no more getting bits of aubergine skin stuck in your teeth! The dough is fantastically light and savoury, the whole place smells faintly of burning wood, and the kitchen is seemingly working on fast-forward with pizzas flying around all over the place – all as it should be, then every so often something comes past that is genuinely surprising or massively exciting.

Something like the Porchetta pizza (£12.50). Mozzarella, juicy juicy pork belly, roasted potato, honey, and a pork crackling dust. They took the crunchy, salty side of a pork belly and powderised it, then sprinkled it on top of a big load of cheese. This isn’t the kind of thing I ever recall seeing at 1926, but it is an absolute banger. For one thing, it’s a perfect balance of sweet and savoury, which is to say ‘just enough honey so that you know it’s there’. That dust is impressively crunchy and impossibly salty, so the whole thing has that popping candy/Rice Krispies effect of sneaking up on you with a big crunch when you least suspect it.

Clearly, this is the work of someone who’s having some fun with it. The doughnuts (£5.50) are little irregular balls of salty pizza dough with a Nutella-packed dip, but covered in a level of sugar that would have Willy Wonka telling you to take it down a notch. The whole menu is short and to the point, the wine is delicious, the lights are incredibly bright but if you come in the daytime you won’t notice and even if you do you won’t mind. When striking out on your own, you need a solid idea of what you want, and to give yourself space to try new things. San Ciro’s seems to be a good chunk of the way there, with some new ideas that might just make it into our own personal pizza histories before too long.

148 Leith Walk, EH6 5DT
Mon-Thu 5-10pm, Fri-Sat 12-10pm, Sun 12-4.30pm