Happy National Pizza Day!
I love a challenge, especially a food one. Keeping on top of the best pizza in London is one such challenge I relish, because the scene is changing all the time: new entrants appear; old ones close; pizzas change; and within months the ‘best of’ list needs revising. I have no choice but to spend as much of my time as possible eating pizza to work out what’s excellent and what’s not. It’s hard, but I’m coping tolerably well.
The reward of such dedicated labour is right here: an updated list of the best pizza in London. I have presented this as a Top Five and a ‘best of the rest’. This update is based on new places I have tried, old ones I have revisited, and eliminating ones which don’t exist any more (such as Fratelli La Bufala on Edgware Road). I have even ventured south of the River to far flung places such as Peckham for the sake of research. I may be biased here, but I still think North London has the lion’s share of the best pizza places, but there are a couple of decent contenders in South London.
Of course, there are still more places to try, places I haven’t got around to visiting yet, but as and when I do, if appropriate a further update will be posted!
Pizza: getting a tasty bargain
Happily, you can enjoy excellent pizza from good pizzerias for an affordable price, often lower than the ubiquitous high street chains. It is a humbly delicious meal, and a basic Margherita starts from about £6 in some places and goes up to £9 (more if you go for a Bufala margherita with the traditional DOP Bufala cheese). However, there are still further bargains to be had if you know where and when to go, and here I’ll share what knowledge I have gleaned here (and I do hunt for it: whisper ‘bargain pizza’ anywhere near me, and I’ll be off in hot pursuit).
For each place, I have listed the cost of a Margherita, and also if there are additional bargains available in bagging a great pizza – just read the ‘deals’ section at the end where it appears. Where relevant, I have also listed my personal recommendation/s. Read on and enjoy!
The Top Five Best Pizzas in London
1. Zia Lucia
157 Holloway Road London N7 8LX (Islington) and 61 Blythe Road London W14 0HP (Kensington Olympia)
Margherita: £6.90 (add £1.50 for a non-traditional base)
Recommendation: anything on a vegetable charcoal base. The Andrea Pirlo is also very good – who would have known apple tasted so good on a pizza?
If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I am a fan of Zia Lucia. Read here for an account of my first visit to their original Holloway branch, and here for a full review. It has been a favourite amongst North Londoners in the know since 2016, and their second branch in Shepherd’s Bush/Olympia has also been packed since opening only a few days ago.
The pizzas at Zia Lucia are made on some of the lightest, airiest bases I have tasted, and they come in four different varieties: traditional, wholemeal (the manager’s favourite – it is indeed light and nutty), vegetable charcoal, and gluten-free. The West London branch has also been offering a green moringa base as a special for its first week of opening (see bottom pizza in photo above). I have tried charcoal bases elsewhere, but Zia Lucia’s is still the best. The pizzas range in price from £6.90 for the Margherita to about £11 for the more exotic toppings like the very popular Arianna. They also do weekly specials. I love the atmosphere, the warm and friendly service, spearheaded by the dapper and affable manager Alessio, the inventive pizzas which are lovingly cooked in their two wood-fired ovens Dante and Wally, and the delicious Tiramisu. This is easily one of the best pizzerias in London.
Be warned that queues can be long at peak times, as they don’t do reservations unless you’re a large group or it’s a special occasion and you’ve asked nicely. Also note that they don’t put chicken on their pizza because apparently that’s not Italian at all.
300 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 2DB
Recommendation: the Tartufata (£15) – black truffle salsa, roasted mushrooms, DOP buffalo mozzarella, and white truffle oil – is sublime. The Pistacchio (£15) – pistachio pesto, smoked provoke, cherry tomatoes, mortadella (I had it without) and crushed pistachio – is also very good.
On a stretch of Kilburn High Road marked with some reasonable bars, small eateries, and one too many chicken shops, Quartieri decided to open up and change the food landscape where it was much needed. These guys take their pizza very seriously, and their mission is simple: to make pizza and food the proper Neapolitan way. And they do. The classic pizzas cost up to £10, and the specials are pricier at up to £15, but they are worth it – they are some of the very best in London.
When I asked about what kind of base they used, their answer was simple: they just make proper Neapolitan pizza (apparently, ‘sourdough’ bases are a distinction for the British market, and not referred to in Naples). Quality and authenticity is absolutely key: all the ingredients are sourced from Italy, mostly from Campagnia; the menu is traditionally Neapolitan (with the exceptions of the crowd-pleasing Tiramisu and Parmigiana, which are both a concession to popular taste); even the (Neapolitan) pizza oven was assembled by workmen from Naples. So they’re a little obsessed with doing it right. Everything is made from scratch, including the pasta, dough, and sauce.
Regarding the pizzas, the wood-fired oven is never switched off, and fastidiously adheres to the International Regulations for Neapolitan pizza-making set out by the Association of real Neapolitan Pizzamakers (I found this fascinating, read here for more). At its optimum temperature just shy of 500°F, it can blast out pizzas in 90 seconds, although if you ask they can cook the pizza a bit longer and make it ben cotto or well cooked i.e., crisper base.
The pizzas are expertly made by head pizzaiolo Alfredo (who is – guess – from Naples), who has been a pizzaiolo for 20 years. Not only are the pizzas excellent, the service is, too. As this is local to me I often get takeaway, but it is a cosy place to sit and eat as well. The Tartufata is one of the best pizzas I have ever had. They’re all pretty great. You can taste the quality of the ingredients, and the base is light and airy, with a tasty chewy crust, which is just how I like it.
Deals: from Monday-Wednesday, you can get any of their classic pizzas and a draft lager for £10. Daily, kids can get a small classic pizza and soft drink for £1 when dining with an adult, and Quartieri will donate the £1 to the NSPCC.
182 Bellenden Road, London SE15 4BW (Peckham); Pop Brixton SW9 8PQ (Brixton); slice bar, Feast Canteen, King’s Mall, King Street, Hammersmith W6 9HW (opens 14th February 2018)
Recommendation: the Truffle (portobello mushroom, fior di latte, white alba truffle oil, thyme, and buffalo ricotta), (£10) topped with burrata if you really want to go for it (+£4)
If I told you I trekked all the way across London and south of the River to try this place, and I would go again, this would give you an indication of how good this place is.
Made of Dough is not a typically Neapolitan pizzeria: it’s got a New York feeling about it, reminiscent of the trendy pizzerias in Brooklyn which are cranking out proper Italian pizzas. It’s a cool urban pizza restaurant in the increasingly cool Peckham (which is also home to a number of good restaurants). It also doesn’t have a list of Neapolitan credentials to back it up, or at least if it does it doesn’t shout about it – it just makes really good pizza which ticks the right boxes. Tasty toppings – check. Light base with chewy crust – check. Good service – check.
Like Quartieri, they also do not use a sourdough base, but use a lean dough instead, with salt, water, yeast, and flour. It is fermented for 48 hours, creating a dough which is light, airy, and easy to digest. It is then cooked in the wood-fired oven at 450°F until perfectly done.
The kiosk in Pop Brixton offers four pizzas cooked in the same way as its Peckham sister. The slice bar in the soon-to-open Feast Canteen in King’s Mall, Hammersmith (which seriously needed reviving, so this is welcome news) will feature some exciting toppings on pizzas – including butternut squash, goats cheese, pumpkin seed, and rocket – which are made and cooked slightly differently to the whole pizzas, so this will also be worth checking out if you can’t make it to South London.
Deals: from Tuesday-Friday, you can get a Margherita for £5 at lunchtime. Even better, every Monday, all pizzas are half price for the whole day. If that’s not a good reason to make the journey there…
Recommendation: the Portobello and Truffle (£10) – described as ‘the poshest’ of their pizzas, this is my top choice
I’l be honest, I had dismissed Pizza Pilgrims as one of the average sourdough pizza chains which wasn’t that special. That was until I visited then again after a long while and had the Portobello and Truffle pizza, which was one of the best bianco pizzas around. This awakened me to the quality of the pizzas at this small chain, and this would be my favourite pick of the Neapolitan pizza chains.
Deal: the West India Quay branch (Canary Wharf) has an ‘Ape Hour’ everyday between 3-6pm, where all pizzas are £5. A solid bargain.
115 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3LB
Open only two months, Farina Pizza offers tasty Neapolitan pizza in a bright if slightly elementary environment. It is another pizzeria to state that they don’t use sourdough because it is not authentically Neapolitan; instead, they use fresh yeast and ferment the dough for 48 hours, resulting in a light, airy base. The pizzas are on the pricier side, going up to £13, but if the Margherita was anything to go by they will be worth the cost: the fior di latte mozzarella was creamy and tasty, the tomato sauce flavoursome, the base light, and the crust chewy. The service is friendly, and they were open to me coming back and creating my own pizza (as they didn’t have a bianco pizza on their menu), so that’s an invitation I can’t refuse…
The best of the rest…
113 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8UL
Recommendation: The Insta special (see ‘deals’, below)
In a prime location almost directly across the road from Waterloo station, Crust Bros is a rather boisterous and well-priced pizzeria offering decent wood-fired pizzas to the corporate workers, commuters, tourists, and anybody else who might be passing through the area.
The menu is divided into ‘reds’ (tomato base), ‘whites’ (white base), and ‘greens’ (pesto base), and you can either pick one from the menu, or build your own – either way, prices are quite reasonable, and you’re unlikely to pay more than £9 for a pizza.
The crust is very good: light yet crisp, so you don’t get that annoyingly soggy bit in the middle. The toppings are a little hit and miss, sometimes lacking flavour and being a bit bland. However, for a pizza option in the area, this is a good choice, and worth coming for the excellent deals available – see below…
Deals: Crust Bros post an Insta special for £5 every day, including weekends. It’s an ‘off menu’ creation, and will generally alternate between vegetarian and meat toppings (you can’t change the toppings). It is valid all day, and all you need to do is like the post on Instagram, show the post to the staff when ordering, and one of the best-priced pizzas in central London is yours. Toppings have included caramelised onion and goats cheese, pesto base with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella, and sundried tomato and spring onion. It’s an absolute steal.
Old Spitalfields Market, London E1 6AA
Recommendation: Zucca (£7) – pumpkin, fior di latte mozzarella, gorgonzola cheese, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, parmesan, pecorino.
This pizzeria on wheels manages to produce excellent snack-size (approx 7″) pizzas from a wood-fired oven housed in a cute camper van in a corner of Spitalfields Market. The Zucca pizza is delicious.
2 Grove Lane, London SE5 8SY
Popular South London pizzeria Theo’s Pizzeria is a modern, bustling restaurant offering more than just pizza. I enjoyed my bianco pizza when I visited, and I could see that there were regulars there, but it wasn’t enough to make me trek back again in a hurry. If I was in the area, I would drop in.
15 St. Mary’s Road, London W5 5RA (Ealing); 94 Waterford Road, London SW6 2HA (Fulham); 160 New Cavendish St, London W1W 6YR (Fitzrovia)
This has been described as the best pizza in London, and it is certainly decent, tasty, and well-priced – most of the menu is around £10, with some pizzas going up to £12. They have just launched a vegan menu, and opened a new branch in central London, which will certainly make it more accessible. I would definitely pop in if I was in search of good pizza in the area.
135 Wardour Street, London W1F 0UT
Ah, Princi. This used to be top of my list for best pizza in London, but standards have been slipping recently and the pizzas getting crispier. I have heard that ownership changed hands some time last year which might explain it. Even so, the Margherita is still a bargain, the atmosphere is still buzzing and lively, and the dessert bar is still very appealing after you’ve had your pizza.
267 Kensington High Street, London W8 6NA
The younger sister restaurant of Il Portico, Pizzicotto offers decent pizza in a lovely setting, with excellent service to match. The pizzas are all at the pricy end of the scale – the Margherita starts at £9.50 – but the toppings are inventive, and they also offer an activated charcoal base (although I think Zia Lucia’s is better). The bases are on the crispier side, and the toppings lack some punch, but overall it’s decent. The burrata starter is delicious, and the gnocche fritte moreish. You may want to visit when you’re on a date and want a quiet place to enjoy nice pizza.