Finding the best pizza in London is probably the Sacred Graal of the new Italian community here. Most non-Italian Londoners are obviously interested in the outcome of this research but it’s us who took on the quest with religious commitment.
Me and my friends are very far from having explored all the pizzerias in London, but so far our research came with these results.
When my friends talked to me about this place I couldn’t believe they did seriously consider going there. I’m talking about Acton/Ealing, West London zone 3. I’ve been west of the Parliament only on the tube going to Heathrow, but never dared to actually go there.
So one day I got on the tube for this never ending journey, topped by a good 10/15 minutes walking. The place is nice and cozy, so very authentic to look almost out of place, but it’s only when I gave the first bit that I understood why people go all the way there. The pizza here is made following the traditional neapolitan tradition, leaving the dough to rise for nearly 24 hours. That means that if you get there late they might have ran out of dough, so make sure you don’t make the trip in vain!
Brixton, Market Row, SW9 8LD. Brixton (Victoria Line)
020 7738 3021 (no reservations)
See the website for more info and other branches.
I’ll start this list with a classic. Loved and well known amongst both the Italians and the rest of London, Franco Manca gained notoriety thanks to the simplicity and quality of its pizza.
Baked in the traditional Neapolitan way, pizzas are topped with natural ingredients and seasonal vegetables. Only 5-6 types of pizza are listed and, frankly, there’s never have been the need for more. The drinks are organic and the coffee is the real thing (when I say coffee in an Italian environment I only mean espresso).
They opened a few more branches but I only visited the original one, at the entrance of the covered part of Brixton Market, coming from Electric Lane. I like the way it’s split in two by the market lane, with little tables crammed along the whitewashed brick walls, but you’re very likely to find long queues if you don’t go there early enough. But hey, that’s a good sign.
131 Stroud Green Rd, N4 3PX. Finsbury Park (Piccadilly / Victoria Line), Crouch Hill (Overground).
020 7263 2114. Website | Menu
Mon – Fri 10am – 3pm / 6pm – Midnight. All day Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays
This is a place where I really feel home. The pizza is great, and so are the main courses but the main reason I go there regularly is because it’s the cheapest and quickest way to go back to Italy. The staff is entirely Italian and they loudly talk with each across the tables, creating a very characteristic and traditional “pizzeria atmosphere”. One of these dudes is at the door and greets you with a great smile. There are few stages of being a regular customer:
- big smile (this comes for free, for everyone)
- hand shake (after a few visits in a row)
- hand shake and manly pat on the shoulder (for regular weekly visitors)
- all of the above and calling you by first name (for those who gave up cooking at home)
When I was living around there I managed to reach stage n.3, let’s see if you can do better! My favourite pizzas here are Valtellina or Parmigiana.
A good place to visit, maybe after an afternoon in Crouch End or few pints ad the Falthering Fullback.
59 – 61 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QL
Farringdon (Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City Line), Kings Cross (Northern, Victoria, Piccadilly, Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City Line)
020 7812 1488
Quality Pizza in Exmouth market, in the area – Clerkenwell – that roughly a century ago until recent time was home to the Italian community in London. This area became recently a foodie paradise, and Santore is the place that set the quality threshold, being one of the first to open amongst those who are now shaping the area.
I usually recommend this place for groups, at least 4 people, as its main characteristic is the possibility to order pizza by the meter. A long, long pizza is placed in the middle of the table and each one can take slices of different toppings. Great fun and great pizza, but don’t get involved in competitions on who can eat the longest…
Usually one meter is good for 4 people but whenever we stick to this rule we always order a “dessert pizza” to share at the end. Also conveniently located next to Café Kick, great for warm up drinks or for after dinner tipples.
Pizza East (Kentish Town)
79 Highgate Rd, London NW5 1TL
Mon – Thu 12:00 pm – 12:00 am / Friday 12:00 pm – 1:00 am/ Saturday 9:00 am – 1:00 am / Sunday 9:00 am – 11:00 pm
020 3310 2000 | Website
This little chain, started in Shoreditch, is quickly expanding. I’ve tried this successful joint in Kentish Town mainly because of a 20% I got with the ticket for a gig the same night at the Kentish Forum (sometimes it’s really worth reading the small print!). The atmosphere is not that traditional, but I appreciate their radical approach. Dim lights and a buzzing room with just the right amount of noise to have a private conversation without shouting. The pizza is really good: thick crust, crispy and well cooked, baked in wooden fire oven. However it’s a bit pricey: £8 for a margherita up to £13 for a more elaborate pizza.
15-18 Great Newport Street, WC2H 7JE. Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly Line).
Daily 12:00pm – 11:00pm
020 7836 6308 | Website
The pizza here is good, the atmosphere is a bit more posh than in the restaurants mentioned above but, considering we are in Leicester Square / Covent Garden area, they’re still doing well in terms of vibe.
The quality of the dough and topping is high (my favourite is the Siciliana, with aubergines and parmesan cheese) and surely is one of the best options for eating in an area plagued by soul-less chains as Covent Garden.
The photos of Santa Maria are by Martina
All other photos are by pizza-loving Takeshi.
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