I won’t profess to label this post as a “guide to the best pizza in London”, as everyone is likely to have their own views on this one. Instead, here goes with a few of my go-to’s whenever I find myself craving this comfort food classic.
Because sometimes, nothing beats a good pizza…
I’m lucky to count this charming family-run Italian restaurant as my local, with dinners here somewhat of a family tradition. We love the cheerfully-lively yet laid-back vibes, not to mention the warm welcome always enthused by the attentive staff.
The wood-fired pizzas are just divine – perfectly crisp edges, a thin base and the softest cheese, alongside an extensive selection of mouth-watering toppings to choose from. The simple and wholesome penne pomodoro also stands out with its generous heaping of a rich tomato and basil sauce; while, fresh in from Italy, the burratina is also a must – far lighter than your average mozzarella and more buttery too, sitting pertly on a bed of grilled aubergine, marinated red onions dressed with a sharp balsamic reduction.
As for dessert, the densely-layered tiramisu is one of the best I’ve had in London. Wash it down with a digestivo, limoncello – if you have a taste for an intense lemony flavour – or the delightfully sweet fragolino, an Italian strawberry liqueur.
Del Fino’s 121 Mount Street, W1K 3NW
Boasting a bespoke hand-built wood-fired oven, the rustic restaurant in Neal’s Yard has developed quite the cult following for its thin-dough pizzas, served up by the slice (albeit pretty large ones) or in a mammoth 20″ form, with a “half and half” option if you can’t decide between the enticing flavours on offer.
My favourite has to the tomato-less artichoke & courgette. The delicate ribbons of the said veggies lend a subtle but sharp foil to the garlicky white-sauce base, making for a scrummy lunch, devoured all too quickly!
Fair warning: Homeslice is wildly popular, so to avoid a case of hangry when you arrive, do make sure to get there early enough to skip the hour-long queues.
Homeslice Pizza, 13 Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP; also at: 52 Wells St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3PR
Then there’s Vico – a relaxed refuge in the heart of London’s West End, complete with an indoor fountain (which wouldn’t be out of place in an Italian piazza) and backed by Jacob Kennedy, the chef patron at the exemplary Bocca di Lupo (situated a few streets over in Soho).
The regional cuisine at Vico reflects “The Appian Way” – the route connecting Rome to Brindisi in South Italy (with pitstops in Lazio, Campania, Basilicata and Puglia along the way). Expect pizzas, pastas and salads wreathed by wildly vibrant assemblies and embellishments, with Gelupo gelato upping the ante for afters.
But don’t just take my word for it – the restaurant was the winner of the Bib Gourmand in the 2017 Michelin Guide!
Vico, 1, Cambridge Circus, Seven Dials, London WC2H 8PA
Of course, if it’s true Neapolitan* pizzas you’re hankering for, look no further than Franco Manca. The cornicone (edges) are especially fluffy here, not a soggy bottom in sight, a feature of the sourdough being left to slow-rise (for a minimum 20 hours) combined with the blast-cooking process.
And while Neapolitan traditionalists* would only recognise two pizzas as truly authentic – Marinara and Margherita – the tomato-less number three on Franco Manca’s menu is a force to be reckoned with, loaded with a triple cheese whammy. The creaminess of the buffalo ricotta and mozzarella here is offset by the sharp and salty flavours of the pecorino shavings, while fried courgettes and basil add yet another texture.
Several locations; see website for further details
* Fact: Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (True Neapolitan Pizza Association) was established in 1984 to uphold the artisan heritage of Neapolitan pizza. Rules are very specific, from the flour used (highly refined, ’00’ flour) to the diameter of the pizzas (a maximum of 35cm), which must be baked at precisely 900°F and for no more than 60-90 seconds (in a wood-fired, domed oven).
Today pizzerias in Naples following these methods display illuminated signs outside – look out for them if you find yourself in the region, and keen for a slice of the authentic!
I know, I know.
This list is still missing a few classics, notably Santa Maria in Ealing, which I have yet to go to… Do drop your recommendations in the comments below. It’s just the excuse/ incentive needed for another pizza crawl really!