An overview of the “Food culture” in London
Almost a decade ago having a decent or at least acceptable Pizza experience in a London restaurant was something very rare and difficult to find. In the recent years, the overall London food scene is positively changed and the variety and quality of the food increased exponentially. Is now possible to find an impressive number of restaurants serving amazing specialties from all over the world keeping an extremely high quality; this for the happiness and delight of the Londoners and the Italians living in the British capital.
But let’s now focus on the Italian food culture and especially on the Pizza one.
In the article, I am going to tell you about some of the best pizzerie here in London (the city where I currently live) telling you something more about my experiences so far and providing you with my personal ranking. My reviews will be based on my personal expertise (quite wide in terms of fine restaurants), taste and on the overall service received during my visits.
The Pizza “making way” in the British capital
For many people, especially not Italians, the concept of Pizza is quite straightforward and simple. Is something easy to find everywhere, is really tasty (hard to find someone who really doesn’t like it) and usually makes everyone agrees when it comes to deciding where head for lunch or dinner on a Friday or Saturday night?
But when you try asking to an Italian if he likes pizza, he is going to tell you immediately: “Dipende quale..” that means “It depends which one..”. You have to know that in Italy there are 2 main pizza making styles: 1) Alla Napoletana (Neapolitan making way) and 2) Alla Romana (Roman making way).
The first one is basically distinguished by the typical thicker borders (in Italian pizza con il cornicione) and the pizza center really thin. Also, the main peculiarity is the sourdough that makes it more soft and chewy.
The second one is generally thinner both in the border and in the center and it is cooked differently and for a longer time, giving it the typical aspect “well cooked” and making it crispy and harder to taste.
After having explored different areas of London (trust me is a massive city) and having tried many Pizzerie (or meant to be), I can tell you with a 99,99% of accuracy that the London trend is toward the first style. My personal idea behind the reasons this particular way of making pizza became so popular in London and not only is because of its history (sources demonstrate the pizza has been invented in Naples), but also because some big Italian based Pizza chains as Rosso Pomodoro, Fratelli La Bufala and recently Franco Manca started exporting it overseas with an unprecedented large-scale. Is particularly impressive the last big chain mentioned here, that reached only in London the stunning number of 43 branches!!
Anyway, in this article, I am not going to enter in the debate about which one is the best, because this will depend entirely on your taste and personal experience. The main purpose here is to provide you with some authentic and genuine advice and recommendation based on my personal experience about which places you could go if you fancy a great Pizza while visiting the beautiful English capital. I have prepared for you a nice gallery that will make you ask yourself: Am I in London or in Italy? 🙂
My personal ranking!
10. FRANCO MANCA
The first Franco Manca restaurant has been founded in 2008 in the Brixton market (read the full story here) and today is quite unbelievable thinking is one of the most diffused Pizza chains in the UK. I have visited 3 of their branches and to be honest I have had different experiences in all of those. I can tell you the best one I have tried until now is the Tottenham Court road one. The pizza served here is definitely Neapolitan style and is actually supposed to be famous to keep even slower the natural sourdough process (at least 20 hours) and to keep the pizzas only 40 seconds in the oven. Even if this process follows a specific traditional recipe, this is going to leave the pizza not always properly cooked, especially in the center and makes it difficult to digest even if actually tasty and enjoyable having it. The overall taste is actually good, but the fact that the pizza base remains quite a row, gives to the pizza a chewy and soggy aspect. This likes to some, but not to everyone and this is the reason the chain is not at the top of my favorites list.
The restaurant’s menu is not of the wider and your choice is limited to around 7 choices of pizzas, salads and some nice starter; within the drinks selection, I recommend you try the NO LOGO craft lager. Click here to check their menu.
As I said, even if is not between my favorite list, their strength is the price (lower than the market competitors) and the spread diffusion around London, but maybe the quality could be impacted by this? I leave the answer to you…
FRANCO MANCA (TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD)
98 Tottenham Court Rd, Bloomsbury, London W1T 4TR
FRANCO MANCA (KILBURN HIGH STREET)
Unit 1, Ground Floor & Basement, 42-44 Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 4HJ
9. ROSSO POMODORO
You will have heard about this chain for sure. Their story starts in Italy and after their success, they started soon spreading around the world and of course in London (you can find 8 locations in the capital).
Their pizzas style is even in this case “alla napoletana” and I tried again different branches in London, Uk and in Italy too. I have to say my overall experience with this chain has been not bad so far and I had really good “Pizza experiences” in the Swiss Cottage and the Camden town branches.
The menu is actually vast and rich respect the Franco Manca one and I really appreciate a similar variety in the choices. Is particularly interesting the possibility to chose between a great variety of doughs: Traditional, Multicereal, Proteic (whole wheat and quinoa) and fried. Also, your choices are not limited to Pizzas (they have a very long list), but you can select Pasta or salads plus some of their desserts (The Tiramisù is tasty, but definitely too elaborated, rich and made with Nutella on top..not Italian style.)
I don’t want to comment here any other dish beyond the Pizza’s menu and I will limit my review here to the sole Pizzas. As I wrote previously, I think the Rosso Pomodoro’s Pizza is definitely good and tasty how should be a Neapolitan pizza, still a bit chewy and soggy in the middle, but with a very good taste and a right balance between the sourdough and the ingredients. Also, the fact that you have such big choice of tastes makes this chain the right place where to go when you are a big group of people.
ROSSO POMODORO CAMDEN
10 Jamestown Road
Camden, NW1 7BY
ROSSO POMODORO SWISS COTTAGE
255 Finchley Road, NW3 6LU
ROSSO POMODORO COVENT GARDEN
50-52 Monmouth street
I have recently visited this pizza place and the main reason is that is not common for me heading to the South of London living in the Northside (you should know London is a quite big metropolis). Bumped in this place by chance with a friend, I can tell you the Pizza here is very good and tasty! Is crispier and less soggy of the usual one served around London, so more similar to the Roman way. Also, the way the restaurant is arranged is cool and trendy facing directly the Clapham common main road. I suggest you trying the nice starters selection and accompanying your pizza with a fresh bottle of Pilsner Urquell (am absolutely good beer). I didn’t take pictures of the pizza served here, but you can see how it looks in the website link provided below.
162 Clapham High Street,
London SW4 7UG
This restaurant/pizzeria is located in the very cozy and nice area of Notting Hill and then if you are going to passing by this lovely area of London have a think about a nice pause in this corner of Italy.
What I have most appreciated is how the restaurant is actually designed and the fact they offer you the opportunity to serve yourself with a nice buffet with a good choice of fine Italian starters. Furthermore, Pizza speaking, the restaurant won’t leave you disappointed! The one I tried was not bad at all and I really enjoyed it, accompanied by a refreshing and well-prepared glass of Aperol Spritz!
222 Portobello Road,
Londra W11 1LJ
No pictures, unfortunately!! 🙁
6. DA MICHELE
For the ones who don’t know, l’Antica Pizzeria da Michele is one of the most famous Pizza places in Naples and this should be something to be considered then? Actually, the original pizzeria is famous to allow customers choosing only 2 kinds of Pizzas! Yes, you hear well! In fact, they consider themselves the Pizza’s purists and the only chose you can make in the menu is between Marinara and Margherita. The other peculiarity of their pizzas is the fact they are usually larger than the typical Neapolitan style pizza and also thinner, even if conserving the thicker borders. I admit having never tried the original restaurant in Naples, but I can tell you about my visit to the London branch. I have to say my experience has been very good and I have especially appreciated the choice and the quality of the ingredients used and the consistency of the pizza. The reason the Pizzeria is not in the very first places on my list is the fact that the menu is so limited and doesn’t allow you to make any other choice. This is fair enough if you care about your philosophy and to your tradition, but I think expanding a little bit the pizza selection would be something to be considered.
L’ANTICA PIZZERIA DA MICHELE
99 Baker Street
This little restaurant/pizzeria based in the really nice West Hempstead area is a place I feel to recommend you if you are looking for an honest and decent Pizza that will make you definitely satisfied. Even if is not so sponsored and is not part of big chains, I think this restaurant is actually great for you are looking for a good pizza and also a good Italian dinner. Looking at the other guest’s table indeed the pasta dishes and also the seafood specialties looked really tasty and flavourful as also the portions really abundant!
Coming to the Pizza side I particularly liked the fact was not too soggy and thick, but on the contrary more similar to a Romana style pizza, with smaller borders and a thin center, but more cooked than a typical Napolitan pizza. I reccomend you the Mamma mia one (see the picture below) because of the huge amount of ingredients on it and the great taste! Was absolutely amazing! Lastly you can finish your dinner with an amazing homemadeTiramisù.
186 Broadhurst Gardens
West Hampstead NW6 3AY
4. L’ANTICA PIZZERIA
This small pizzeria (it’s actually really really small) located in the wonderful borough of Hampstead is a place that I definitely recommend you. Nevertheless having only a few tables, this pizza served in this little corner of Naples is great! Is again done with all the proper Neapolitan style characteristics, quite larger than usual and similar to the one I tried in Da Michele for consistency, size, and freshness of ingredients. I reported here an extract you can find on the website main page:
“Caputo flour is the base for our low-salt dough, slow-fermented over 36 hours. It puffs up quickly when hitting 400°C in our neapolitan made wood oven: the intense heat chars the pizza base shaping a crisp cornicione, giving it a pleasant look and outstanding Toppings are well balanced to create a glorious and mouth-watering taste: hand-crushed tomato sauce, the right amount of scattered fior di latte (cow) mozzarella and plenty of choice should you fancy more on your pizza. You sit and enjoy, we do the rest!”
The pizzeria menù offered is also vast compared to the restaurant size and as for the Oro di Napoli case, the pizza’s names are a tribute to some of the main Italian actors or famous Italian personalities and celebrities mostly from the past. Is not missing a good choice of Pasta and Salads. Surely one of the best pizzerie in North West London.
66 Heath Street
Santore is another traditional Italian restaurant /pizzeria that is working successfully in London for many years in the British capital. The restaurant is located in the lovely area of Exmouth market in Farringdon and where I had the pleasure to dine on many occasions. Well, this is a proper Italian restaurant and here you will have the feeling to be at home. The food selection is wide and eventually, you can try many dishes and typical Italian plates, but focusing on the pizza, I am going to definitely recommend it to you. The pizza is indeed absolutely good and also is more crispy and well cooked as I prefer. Another peculiarity of the place is the fact you can choose the Metro pizza, that is the best if you are a big group of people and you want to share it in an easier and funnier way. The place runner and the pizzaioli are genuinely Italians and you can’t make it wrong reserving a spot in this amazing place. This is definitely on my top list.
59 – 61 Exmouth Market
London, EC1R 4QL
Unfortunately, I didn’ take any pictures during my visits in this very good Pizzeria, but you can have a look at the reviews on Tripadvisor.com.
The restaurant/pizzeria Pappagone is really one of the best places you can decide to go if you want to feel a real Italian dining atmosphere in London and obviously if you are an Italian food lover.
Established in 1998, it became soon one of the main points of reference in London if you are looking for a real Italian dining experience. If you decide to go here you will definitely feel at home if you are Italian or in Italy if you are not…:-) All the personnel is from Italy (owner, waiters and waitresses, pizzaioli (usually 3 of them work hard to make sure all the customers are served timely) and cooks.
I tried several times their pizza e I have to say is great! They use of course a Wood burning oven and the way they cooked the pizza is well done and that’s why I like it! Apart Pizza, I feel here to recommend you also the restaurant. I tried only once one of their pasta dishes (specifically the Carbonara pasta) and trust me was delicious. Also, I noticed they serve also many seafood dishes and specialities and they look super good and fresh!
But what makes here the difference are the people! All the times I went to this restaurant, I appreciated the courtesy and the kindness of all the personnel. The place is really busy and noisy, but also this makes the atmosphere unique and authentic.
Overall is a great place where to go and the fact they are on the market from such a long time and they have always long lines to grab a seat in their big local is a quality guarantee. This is also the reason it deserves being in the podium of my list.
131 Stroud Green Rd,
London N4 3PX
1.L’ORO DI NAPOLI
This restaurant is the place to go if you are a Pizza lover and if you like the Neapolitan pizza in general. The story of the name is linked to the famous Italian movie L’oro di Napoli (1954) interpreted by some famous Italian actors as Vittorio De Sica and Sofia Loren. In the movie, the famous Italian actress runs a pizzeria in Naples. Apart this bit of history, I can tell you the Pizza you will try here is of top quality and comparable to most of the pizzerie running in Naples. The menu is also amazing and the choice you will have is absolutely great as you can see from their funny menu. As you will notice all the pizzas are named with famous actors or personalities of the Italian traditions.
The pizza was a perfect blend of ingredients freshness, sourdough quality and consistency. They do also the typical Pizza fritta, that I recommend if you have never tried it in your life (Make sure arriving hungry on that day).
The only little issue with this amazing pizzeria, is the location (not immediately convenient from the London city centre) and the size of the restaurant in itself that will make you eventually queuing to get a place particularly during the weekends (I strongly recommend you to book in advance if you are planning to take a visit there). In any case, I can guarantee you the waiting will be rewarded.
L’ORO DI NAPOLI
6 The Quadrant
Little Ealing Lane
Conclusions and personal considerations
With this article, which based entirely on my personal and genuine experiences and also on my particular taste (everyone has a different one), I wanted to give you an insight of the Pizza quality in the British capital.
As you have read and seen the quality is absolutely high and I dare to tell you that on certain occasions I really had a better pizza than in Italy! And the funny things is that I have reviewed only 10 of the many Pizzerie spread around the city and of course only the one I have effectively tried.
I hope you will have appreciated my article and I am sure that you will see from now and again the London pizza culture with a slightly different eye…;-) Buona pizza londinese a tutti!