Like the American bar Cheers – where everybody knows your name – each time the doors are pushed open into Arty’s, the welcome is clear.
Even non-Knowle residents like me are positively encouraged to become part of this bar-cum-eaterie and join in. Game of billiards, anyone? Hey, let’s have a drink and chew the fat at the bar. Laid back doesn’t cover it. And what a place!
The décor (I use the word loosely) is a cross between Cash in the Attic and a jumble sale. Chairs and tables this mismatched are almost an art form. There are sofas too and the space heaves with artefacts as diverse as 1950s gramophones, 1960s gaming machines and a typewriter which might have been familiar to Raymond Chandler. Old desks are rammed and crammed with kitsch and if you’re looking for old LPs, wade through the dusty piles here.
The emporium also boasts a TV screen that could fill an outdoor wall. A sideboard gives the only clue that you might also find a bite to eat.
So, what can you order? It’s wall to wall Italian-style thin crust pizzas with traditional toppings. Choose from Arty’s Artysan 12in ones: Margherita; Marinara; Proscuitto; Funghi; Napoletana; Quattro Formaggi; Vegetarian and two others (Bismark with an egg and Parma ham or L’Atomica with red chilli peppers, pepperoni, mozzarella and fresh basil leaves). And that’s it. OK, a few sides including fries; differing garlic breads; green salad; homemade coleslaw and a buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad. Prices range from £8 to £9.75 for the pizzas.
I manoeuvred past the resident dog, bookcases, squat side tables and a vast outdoor heater to get to a table after a chat and an order at the bar for a Margherita and a glass of Merlot.
My Margherita was one of the best of its kind. Forget those cardboard cheap supermarket types. The thin crust was crisp and the topping exemplary, with torn basil as fresh as can be. I didn’t need any offered chilli, garlic and basil oil to make this pizza live.
Service was by a very personable, friendly man, a theatre sparky in real life – just the right person for Arty’s. Nothing was too much trouble.
Arty’s is a quirky but cheery place. Not all its eccentricities lie in the décor. When I originally bowled up for lunch, its doors were firmly closed despite its advertised opening hours. So call ahead before your visit. But I’m glad I went back. My bill came to just under £11 for an excellent pizza and an okay glass of wine.
Arty’s Bar & Pizzeria, South Square, Knowle Village, Fareham
Open: Mon-Thurs noon-11pm, Fri-Sat noon-midnight, Sun noon-10.30pm
Food: Four (out of five)
Disabled access: Steps up to entrance may deter wheelchair users
How to get there: Go west on the M27 from Portsmouth, take the A32 turning to Alton and Wickham. See Knowle Village signs on this road before Wickham. Arty’s is in the centre on the right. Parking on-street.