"Shelly. There's something I need to tell you."
I knew from the way her tone changed that what L had to say was of great importance. I glanced around.
"We're having to push our date back. There's just no venues available this year."
I felt myself relax. The mission was still on - but I had another year to make a success of it.
"Oh, okay. Well, I'll keep looking."
"Good." She replied. And looked me in the eye. "It gives you more time to find what we need."
I swallowed. I knew what she was saying. The goalposts for Operation:Pizza had moved, and the pressure had, if anything, increased. Yes, I had more time... but that meant that anything less than perfection was just not an option.
Three weeks later I found myself at Pizza East in West London. It was so far up the Portobello Road I thought I must have walked past it, but then spotted its sign at the end of a red-walled housing estate. The welcome was warm, and the interior cosy - perfect for a winter's night out. My friend and I sat down and scoured the menu. We were both ravenous, so quickly ordered some croquettes, almonds and olives to nibble on as we got down to the serious business of choosing our pizza. Recommendations were made, but I settled on the spicy sausage and broccoli combo - with, of course, a request for fresh buffalo mozzarella.
The starters certainly didn't disappoint, and the alcohol-free (alas, it was still Dry January) elderflower, cucumber and soda drink I ordered quenched my thirst very pleasantly. But how would the main attraction hold up?
I didn't have to wait long to find out. The spicy sausage was the star. "Spicy" struck me as a very lazy way of describing the delicately-flavoured pork, but it was certainly very tasty. In fact, it out-shone the rest of the pizza, making the other flavours, if anything, a bit bland. And the cheese? I'm not convinced it was the real deal.
But, you know what? Pizza East was certainly a great venue, and the retro pop kept me and my chum very happy. So happy we decided to stay for ice cream. Chocolate ice cream, in a sugar cone. And let me tell you, if this was Operation:Ice, this place would have been a main contender.
But this isn't Operation:Ice. It's Operation:Pizza. And the pizza didn't quite cut the mustard. Or, rather, the mozzarella.
7.5 out of ten.