It has been announced that the third branch of Santa Maria — the cult Neapolitan pizzeria — will provisionally open Thursday 1 February underneath the BT Tower in London’s Fitzrovia. The restaurant was first reported to be opening in August last year, with a planned “pre-Christmas” launch date that’s fallen slightly behind. It will formerly open on Wednesday 14 February, once the pizzaioli have “trained” the oven, a process which can take up to two weeks.
Here are a few things to know about the new site, its product and its owners, Pasquale Chionchio and Angelo Ambrosio:
- Santa Maria will make its third site (a second opened on the King’s Road in Chelsea in 2016; the original site in Ealing, west London, opened in 2010) a no-bookings space and will seat around 40 people. They claim it will be the only independently-owned pizzeria in zone 1.
- The interior colour palette will be: ‘Art Deco’ pinks, greens, yellows and blues, “chosen to reflect the buzzy retro feel of the Italian coffee bars of central London in the 1960s.”
- Much of the menu will remain fiercely true to the Neapolitan traditions of the two other sites, but there will be an increase in the number of vegan options “to reflect the current mood” — as well as collaborations with other chefs.
- They use only high-quality certified San Marzano D.O.P tomatoes, a variety produced in very limited quantities, which are pre-ordered a year in advance to ensure they have sufficient.
- The company remains “proudly independent,” and has not taken any offers of investment to retain 100% control of their business.
- Last year the duo expanded their original restaurant in Ealing into the next door pub, the Red Lion, making them “London’s only Italian landlords.” It has also given them the ability to triple their capacity for serving pizzas on that original site.
Owner Pasquale said in a statement: “We go to the ends of the earth to make our pizzas perfect. From the dough, to the temperature of our handmade oven, to the order we place our ingredients on the dough, to the way we stretch the dough…you name it, we’ve thought about it!”
Detail is key here: A “state of the art” oven is made from handmade bricks from Sorrento cooked at 1200°C and lays on sand from Mount Vesuvius. Chionchio and Ambrosio believe the perfect pizza is cooked at around 450°C, so that is the temperature this oven will reach. Ambrosio added: “We’re so excited about opening in central London. It’s a huge move for us. We’re quietly confident though.”