It is, apparently, National Pizza Day on February 9th – like any of us needed an excuse for another slice.
Still, it is a good excuse to take a step back and look at the London pizza scene and, when you do that, you realise what a good place we’re in. Sure, we’re not Naples, and Chicago and New York can still carry on with their never-ending “who’s best” debate but, actually, we’re in very good (roughly circular, squidgy) shape. Here then, are a few of the best.
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
With the Naples original touted as the “world’s best” – and sort of co-starring in Eat Pray Love – L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele has spread its wings and landed in, er, Baker Street – which, while not exactly famous for its Italian connection is at least vaguely apt dough-wise. Expect queues, a surprisingly straightforward menu, prices that are a little more than you’d pay in Italy and a slice of doughy loveliness that, while perhaps underwhelming on first bite, builds to something that celebrates simplicity and lingers long in the mind.
199 Baker Street, NW1 6UY, 02079 356458, anticapizzeriadamichele.co.uk
A great pizza place near Leicester Square… Yes, I was surprised as anyone but, having been tipped off to this place by an Italian mate – a place I’d walked past many, many times, and written off as a tourist trap based purely on its postcode – it’s become one of my most visited spots. One day I might even order something other than the Sarracino I Panuozzi.
“I Panuozzi” are, the menu tells me, traditionally from the Gragnano area and are, basically, a wood fired stuffed pizza, that’s more sandwich than calzone. The Sarracino – fennel-heavy Italian sausage, aubergine, smoked mozzarella – is like the breakfast sandwich you can cheerfully inhale for supper. If you go with a group, the “pizza al metro” / pizza by the metre is always fun.
15 Great Newport Street, WC2H 7JE, 02078 366308, sartorirestaurant.com
Should you confuse Clerkenwell’s Santore and Leicester Square’s Sartori, I wouldn’t worry: I’m assuming that the two are related as they have essentially the same menu and are of very similar quality. Clerkenwell has long had an Italian association and you’ll certainly hear the accent at Santore, from staff and clientele. Again, I’m all about the Sarracino. Look, if it ain’t broke…
59-61 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QL, 02078 121488, santorerestaurant.london
I was first put onto Santa Maria by a friend when there was just the tiny Ealing outpost on St Mary’s Road (hence the name). His wife was from Rome and his in-laws were very hard to please when it came to food and London – but Santa Maria’s cooking shut them up and was thus worth the long drive around the North Circular. They weren’t wrong. It’s super. Again, so simple, but it’s all about celebrating the ingredients and the elasticity of the dough. Happily, you can now track them down in Chelsea and Fitzrovia.
15 St Mary’s Road W5 5RA – 02085 791462
94 Waterford Road SW6 2HA – 02073 842844
160 New Cavendish Street, W1W 6YR – 02074 369963
No, it’s not authentic, but hell, it’s London, not Naples, and we like a little hybrid action. Also – whisper it soft – there’s some magic that happens when you just treat pizza as a flatbread rather than a sacred item. Grab a friend, mix and match two halves of a 20” pizza – if the mushroom, ricotta, pumpkin seed and chilli is on the menu then, well, ALWAYS – just don’t tell your Italian friends…
Various locations, including Covent Garden, Fitzrovia and Shoreditch, homeslicepizza.co.uk
Yeah, there are more authentic places – and all sorts of local gems dotted around the capital – but I have a soft spot for the Pizza Pilgrims, mostly because we once went around Chicago together in the name of research, but also because they ably mix Neapolitan tradition with a sense of fun.
Various locations, including Covent Garden, Soho and Shoreditch, pizzapilgrims.co.uk
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