My daughter proclaimed her preference for Hitchmans’ macaroni cheese over mine at the top of her voice last week, causing a hushed tumble weed moment to descend on the new Chipping Norton pizzeria, mid meal.

The rest of the family shushed her immediately while throwing nervous looks in my direction, waiting to see if my reaction was suitably Versuvian.

But she was right. I’d certainly met my match.

And while our mantra is not to order anything we can make better at home, it was a surprise choice for her.

Because macaroni cheese is the one dish guaranteed to disappoint when eating out when inevitably the sauce is too mild, unseasoned, gloopy, dry, overly cheesy or using poor ingredients.

Not a major pizza fan however, her choices were limited.

Macaroni cheese it was, mercifully called by it’s English name rather than its American abbreviation ‘mac n’ cheese’ which makes my toes curl.

Hitchmans had got it just right - achieving that rich, velvety depth with just the right ratio of sauce to pasta, then covered in herby, garlicky breadcrumbs and baked in the oven.

God it was good.

And all this in the most unlikely of venues - a new pizza restaurant in Chipping Norton that we’d popped into before catching this year’s panto Aladdin.

I wasn’t expecting much to be honest.

Hitchmans used to be Winebear, a cocktail/wine bar with a reputation that preceded it, which then decided to change tack.

Presumably spotting a gap in the market, Hitchmans promptly plugged it by hauling in a vast wood burning oven and concentrating on its dough bases rather than its espresso martinis.

But I wasn’t holding my breath. Yes it’s nice enough, in a plate glass window, simple, family-friendly, rush in, rush out, wipe clean, kind of way, but pizzas are a dime a dozen these days and all much-of-a-muchness.

Few do it well.

Well, Hitchmans was one of them. Not only were the pizzas right up there, but the rest of the minimal menu was also spot on.

We started with a scattering of dough balls (£5), always a favourite with the kids, a garlic bread with cheese (£6) and the intriguing sounding crispy artichoke hearts with rocket and lemon aioli (£6)

The garlic bread was a a hit, the pizza base covered with proper Italian mozzarella, the dough balls were laden with garlic butter and impossible to resist, and the artichoke hearts legendary.

Usually artichoke hearts in restaurants are soft, slimy and metallic - best saved as a pizza topping - but Hitchmans came up trumps.

Hot and crispy on the outside yet firm and juicy within, the lemon aioli was the perfect sharp, velvety and garlicky accompaniment, completed by the peppery. dressed leaves. I could have eaten bowlfuls, but then wouldn’t have had room for the marvellous pizzas. Which were good, really good.

The bases were crispy and doughy but it was the toppings that sang. They had that Italian zing, missing in so many knock off alternatives, the sauce really hitting the mark, the cheese authentic, the meat on the Carni (prisciutto crudo, pancetta and salami £13) distinct, the olives on the Napoli (£13) rustic and juicy. No expense had been spared on the ingredients - and they all spoke Italian to me.

The margaritas were wonderful in their simplicity (£12) and more than generous.

I also chose the spicy tomato sauce option rather than dousing it in chilli oil, which was properly hot, and didn’t pull any punches.

It was like being in a Sicilian bar brawl; that oily, pungent heat really hitting home.

Hitchmans had turned out to be a major surprise.

But then Chipping Norton is certainly coming up in the world, in tandem with the rise of the infamous Chipping Norton ‘set’, the calibre of its restaurants creeping up simultaneously.

I recently discovered the joys of cafe/bar and restaurant Whistlers, hiding away on Middle Row, and the wonderful creations of its head chef Dave John Hall as featured currently on Masterchef: The Professionals .

Whistlers is a family run business, currently celebrating 19 years in the business, its bistro-type demeanour disguising a true reverence to food.

Then there’s Wild Thyme which continues to serve up its famously good fare under husband and wife team Nick and Sally Pullen, currently preparing to hold a 10th Birthday Bash in the town hall to highlight a decade in business.

Even the local pubs have begun to raise their game - The Blue Boar in particular haven been given a full revamp recently.

And with Hitchmans now on board to swell their ranks, Chipping Norton’s food offerings are finally beginning to match its clientele.


West St, Chipping Norton. OX7 5AA

01608 646495