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.
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Da Moreno Pizzeria (190 Northfield Ave)
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.
Santa Maria (1 Bond Street)
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.
Napoli on the Road (9A Devonshire 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.
L'Antica Pizzeria (66 Heath Street)
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. 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.
L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele (199 Baker Street)
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.
Pizzeria Pellone London (42 Lavender Hill)
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.
Bravi Ragazzi (2A Sunnyhill Road)
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.
50 Kalò di Ciro Salvo Pizzeria London
(7 Northumberland Ave)
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.
Homeslice Pizza (13 Neal's Yard)
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.
Sorrento In (1168 London Road)
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.
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