A consequence of London’s slow-rising, fast-cooking pizza boom is an insatiable demand for pizza bakers and high staff turnover. With London’s pizzaioli emulating Fabrizio Cacciatorre, the Italian footballer who played for 10 different Italian clubs in a space of 10 years, it’s become difficult for pizzerias to maintain consistency. So how is a London pizza punter to cope with all this to-ing and fro-ing? By choosing either a pizzeria owned and operated by the pizza maker or one with proven, hands-on management that can withstand — and maybe even avert — the revolving-door disruptions. The essential pizzerias below fall into these two categories.Read More
The 17 Essential London Pizzerias
From Neapolitan and NYC-style to somewhere-in-betweens
1. Da Moreno Pizzeria
This tight spot on Northfield Avenue — in which the oven takes up around 60 percent of the room and the smell of charring dough circles like a benevolent spirit — is continuing to flex its house specials in a takeaway only setting: King prawns and pancetta hang out on a ricotta canvas, while speck, porcini, and gorgonzola put umami treble on the superb base.
2. Santa Maria
Santa Maria has been at or near the top best-pizza-in-London lists for so long now, co-owners Pasquale Chionchio and Angelo Ambrosia should be paying rent. The pizza, like Santa Maria’s incredibly demanding co-owners, is Neapolitan to the core, its deceptively fragile crust holding up to pressure, from the San Marzano tomatoes as well as one’s eager fingers. Branches in Chelsea and Fitzrovia now open, too.
3. Napoli on the Road
This three-wheeled pizzeria still rests on the four legs of the inseparable pizzaioli Michele Pascarella and Paolo Cimmino — colleagues at Sartori, on Great Newport St, before they hit the road, but it’s no longer a roving truck. Having set up shop in Chiswick, it’s still the best spot in London to try the fashionable pizza canotto (“dinghy”), so-called due to its inflated rim. At first it looks as if the dough were powered on steroids, not yeast, but this stunning street pizza is still built on lots of hydration, patience, know-how and love in its new, off-street home. The crust is as soft and airy as a cloud.
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4. L'Antica Pizzeria
Not long ago, those who wanted true Neapolitan pizza north of the A406, had to drive to Manchester. That was prior to mid-July 2018, when this cherished Hampstead pizzeria opened a spacious Barnet branch. Initial resistance to its bendy base compels partners Luca de Vita and Alessandro Betti to revive an old act: Convince skeptical North Londoners that pizza doesn’t have to be crisp and dry. The puffed border of the pizza is as light as a cloud — the antithesis of bloated cardboard pizza. De Vita and Betti are uncompromising when it comes to the composition of their slow-fermented dough as well as in the choice in ingredients and, crucially, pizzaioli. For those who still prefer a cheesy pizza now and then, the five-cheese Annibale is worth a detour, either side of the North Circular.
5. L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele
The legendary Naples pizzeria licensed this large, splashy branch in the old central London ‘hood of Sherlock Holmes after an ill-fated first opening in Stoke Newington. For the classic margherita, the tomato and mozzarella is the same as in Naples and so is the famous stretch: Pulled and pinched over a wooden paddle, the base becomes so thin you can practically see through it. A minute in the oven for a charred, misshapen pizza too big for its plate or its box. This rustic randomness is the essence of the Da Michele experience.
6. Pizzeria Pellone London
On Lavender Hill in Battersea sits one of the finest pizzerias in the city. Pellone respects the classics with the care of an antiquarian, but the stars are the white pizza with mortadella and a pizza with yellow tomatoes, simple enticing ideas that complement the beautifully puffed cornicione and long fermented dough. —Feroz Gajia
7. Pizza Pilgrims
A typical tourist might return home from Italy with a Leaning Tower of Pisa fridge magnet. James and Thom Elliot brought back a Piaggio pizza van and became influential champions of Neapolitan pizza, first at Berwick Street Market and then at eleven pizza restaurants. The ‘nduja pizza helped make that spicy Calabrian pork sausage one of the world’s trendiest toppings. Multiple venues.
8. Bravi Ragazzi
Italian and English are not so much spoken as shouted at Bravi Ragazzi. This boisterous slice of Naples isn’t for everyone and maybe that’s a lucky thing: It’s already hard enough to get a table. The rustic, leopard-spotted crust of pizza can be so light it’s a wonder it doesn’t collapse under the pressure of its moist toppings. But weightlessness in a Neapolitan pizza is a reflection of strength.
9. 50 Kalò di Ciro Salvo Pizzeria London
The image and imprint of pizza superstar Ciro Salvo pervade the new Trafalgar Square branch of his Naples pizzeria and, with them, the real possibility — if not always the promise — of London’s best pizza ever. The raw materials for greatness are there: Ciro’s dough yields an incomparably light, supple crust, the base for world-class sourcing and baking technique. But building a Westminster team of pizzaioli that can make it his way, at all times, could prove a challenge. One of the beautiful artichoke and capocollo pizzas recently served fell flat on the edges, lacking the air-pocketed border one expects to see framing a Ciro Salvo pizza. It was good enough, which is to say, not quite good enough. When Ciro or a trusted sidekick are in London to stretch the 50 Kalò (“good dough” in Neapolitan slang), even a pizza as basic as a Marinara, with only tomato, oregano, garlic and extra virgin olive oil, is a thrill ride. Soaring flavours held aloft by a magic carpet woven with flour, yeast and water.
10. Homeslice Pizza
Kimchi, porcini cream and basil. Aubergine, cauliflower cheese, spinach, and harissa. Spiced lamb, savoy cabbage and sumac yoghurt. Dorothy, it looks like we’re not in Margheritaville anymore. Homeslice is the original and unapologetically cheffy pizzeria, founded by street food warrior Ry Jessup — who has now left the business — and restaurant insider Mark Wogan. It isn’t only the cosmopolitan toppings that stretch the boundaries of Italian pizza. With 20-inch bases, the pizzas are made for sharing. Multiple venues.
11. Sorrento In
London SW16 4DP, UK
For 20 years, Valentino Ferro has been London’s undisputed king of the long-form style known as pizza a metro — “pizza by the metre”. Working first at Pizza Metro in Battersea, later at Saporitalia in Notting Hill and most recently at his own Sorrento In, Ferro stretches slabs of the dough over a long wooden pizza paddle and deftly deposits the half-meter-long pizzas onto the oven floor. Even in round form, his elegant Marinara benefits from the fragrant oregano grown by his wife Gelsomina Mase.
12. ‘O ver
The secret to the magically fluffy and aromatic crust at ‘O Ver is ostensibly purified seawater in the dough, but really it was the skill and perfectionism of pizza baker Marino Bove, who has now left the business. Thankfully, his directive to tear open the crust and direct the nose into the steaming fluff before taking a bite holds up, and two signature pizzas belong on everyone’s bucket list: The Paloma, with smoked mozzarella, chiodini mushrooms and pancetta arrotolata; and the Sorrento, with mozzarella, lemon zest, Sicilian Vesuvio yellow cherry tomatoes, black pepper, and fresh basil. Now with a second location in St. James’s.
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13. Oi Vita Pizzeria
The shortage of qualified pizza makers in London is a boon to the appetites of Oi Vita devotees, if not to the home life of co-owner Nicola Apicella. He is a fixture at the forno, shaping beautifully airy pizzas layered with the finest traditional ingredients. His cheese-dusted calzone may be stuffed and covered with assorted cheeses and salumi, in the Neapolitan manner, but this exceptional folded pizza is as un-heavy as they come.
14. Vicoli di Napoli Pizzeria
London N16 0UH, UK
This is not L’Antica Pizzeria di Michele, nor does it need to be. Previously embroiled in a naming scandal, Vicoli di Napoli has forged out on its own to produce pizza that can match its illustrious forerunner. It’s added modest specials and meat options to the previously either/or menu, but the margherita is the one to get most times out of ten. —Feroz Gajia
15. Sud Italia
London E1 6AA, UK
Enough with Big Ben: The first stop in London for discerning Italian tourists is now Silvestro Morlando’s mobile pizzeria. They must see for themselves if it’s really as genuine as their national newspapers insist. It is, to a point, with the Zucca Pizza — puréed pumpkin replaces tomato sauce, establishing orange as the new red.
16. Yard Sale Pizza
Even as it expands, Yard Sale, first and foremost a takeaway outfit, remains devoted to its mix of the virtuous and the “dirty.” Options like gluten-free dough and vegan cheese share menu space with Rib Man Holy F**K sauce. Its thin-crusted flexi pizzas, from the TSB (tender-stem broccoli) to the Holy Pepperoni, are blanketed with marvellously melty mozzarella. Multiple locations.
17. Wandercrust Pizza at The Duke Pub SE8
One for the pizza devotees: Mike Gregory has bought his pies, formerly at The Crown Greenwich, to both The Duke, also in Greenwich, and the Dolphin in Sydenham. One peerless pizza of his is the American Psycho, which consists of San Marzano tomato, mozzarella, Ventricina salami, Roquito peppers, Moon chilli honey and fresh basil layered over a light, puffy, Neapolitan base. The same chilli honey is drizzled over Wandercrust’s four cheese pizza with mozzarella, ricotta, gorgonzola, and pecorino.
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