Officially rated the world’s most popular food, there’s something pretty impressive about pizza, but it’s all too often relegated to the realms of drunken dinners and fast food. Following in the path of burgers and hotdogs, London has seen a boom in gourmet pizza restaurants of late, and the city now has no shortage of people taking it very seriously indeed. Here’s our pick of the most perfect pizzas in London town. Whether you’re a funghi fan, a margherita man or a lass who likes lardo, we’re confident you’ll find your perfect pizza at one of these restaurants that have really earned their dough.
L’Antica Pizzeria, Hampstead
Famous Italians lend their names to the pizzas at this restaurant near the Heath, but it’s the dishes themselves that are the real stars. Neapolitan in heritage and approach, the team use Caputo flour, imported from Naples, for their dough, fermenting it for over 24 hours before it goes into the 400°C oven. The extra air inside it means the dough quickly puffs up in the oven, making for a refreshingly light and airy pizza base. For toppings, only hand-crushed tomato sauce is used and the amount of mozzarella is carefully regulated to avoid excess water that might threaten that superbly crisp base. Try the Sofia Loren topped with tomato, mozzarella, artichokes, black olives, courgette, aubergine, parmesan, basil and olive oil.
L’Antica Pizzeria, 66 Heath Street, NW3 1DN
Franco Manca, various locations
A little of the shine has worn off since the original Franco Manca opened to long queues in Brixton Market and first became famous for its sourdough pizza bases. There are now a total of nine branches around the capital and more on the way, and no longer is it independently owned. Still, that slightly sour, salty, chewy Neapolitan base remains, and is one of the best in the city. We also like that the top-notch Italian-style produce is sourced from the UK as much as possible. A pizza topped with cured Gloucester Old Spot ham, mozzarella and buffalo ricotta with wild mushrooms is elegantly earthy; try it in the Brixton branch for maximum atmosphere.
Franco Manca, see locations here
GB Pizza Co, Clerkenwell
Restaurant concepts might usually start in London and then spread to the rest of the UK (like Wahaca, Jamie’s Italian or Byron), but GB Pizza Co has bucked the trend. It’s only following the runaway success of the Margate original that the owners decided to launch earlier this year on Exmouth Market. Its super-thin bases and large crispy crusts also go against the grain, following a more Roman approach to pizza than the Neapolitan one that leads to softer, chewier bases. This is no bad thing, though; it means the array of often-adventurous toppings get more of the limelight. We enjoyed a harissa-spiced lamb merguez pizza which was one of the daily specials, but there’s no shortage of more purist-friendly options, either. Like the wonderfully named and beautifully simple Margate-rita, for example.
GB Pizza Co, 50 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE
Homeslice, Covent Garden
There’s something infectiously fun about this pizza pop-up-gone-permanent on Neal’s Yard. An open wood-fired oven, large wine bottles on each table (you just pay for what you drink of it), and closely-packed seating all play their part. As do the massive pizza portions and inventive flavours. Think cauliflower cheese, aubergine, spinach and harissa or chorizo, corn and coriander. We’ve tried a fair few of them and not found one that doesn’t work yet, though purists may want to proceed with caution.
Homeslice, 13 Neal’s Yard, WC2H 9DP
A large, mirror-clad pizza oven in a very open kitchen dominates the industrial space of Lardo, and while the menu spans plenty more Italian creations, the pizzas made in aforementioned oven should dominate your meal. We recently reviewed the restaurant here, and have since returned for a cheesy, crisply sturdy-based pizza topped with ‘Nduja (a soft, spicy Calabrian sausage). Anything featuring some of the venue’s British charcuterie or namesake lardo is also worth a go.
Lardo, 197-205 Richmond Road, E8 3NJ
Pizza East, various locations
Brought to us by the Soho House Group (also behind Dirty Burger and Chicken Shop), the original Pizza East in Shoreditch has now spread north and west, with further branches in Kentish Town and on Portobello Road. The glam warehouse-styled original is still the most impressively bustling and usually stays that way until past midnight (it’s open until 2am on Friday and Saturdays), but all branches share the same springy based and interestingly-topped pizzas. Burrata, Swiss chard and roasted chilli is a classic in the making, while a version with veal meatballs, prosciutto and cream is much lighter and less top-heavy than it sounds – try it.
Pizza East, 56 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ
Pizza East Portobello, 310 Portobello Road, W10 5TA
Pizza East Kentish Town, 79 Highgate Road, NW5 1TL
Pizza Pilgrims, Soho
With one branch on Dean Street and another set to launch just off Carnaby Street in the next couple of weeks, Pizza Pilgrim founders, brothers James and Thom Eliot, have well and truly completed the transition from street food stars to restaurateurs. As the name recalls, the pair went on an extensive pizza pilgrimage across southern Italy before pulling together everything they’d learned to bring superlative Neapolitan-style pizzas to London. The characteristically soft dough of pizzas from this region set them apart from most, while exactingly-sourced Italian ingredients ensure the toppings also shine: try the ‘Nduja, which comes with a real kick. The bustling Soho atmosphere is also a high-point.
Pizza Pilgrims, 11 Dean Street, W1D 3RP
Pizzametropizza, various locations
There are two branches of this peculiarly-named restaurant, but both the Battersea and Notting Hill venues have their hearts set somewhere in Italy. Thin, soft-based pizzas steer well clear of over-the-top toppings in favour of tip-top Italian produce (it’s genuine mozzarella di bufala and ricotta di bufala all the way). We particularly like the Diego’s pizza loaded with tomato, mozzarella, salami, buffalo ricotta and basil, but the restaurants can pull off meatballs, gorgonzola and sausage with just as much gusto. These casual eateries are very serious players in the pizza stakes.
Pizza Metro Battersea, 64 Battersea Rise, SW11 1EQ
Pizza Metro Notting Hill, 147-149 Notting Hill Gate, W11 3LF
This Italian restaurant on Clapham Road is smarter than most of its neighbours, with a striking modern design, including wine bottles hanging from the ceiling. The story goes that head chef Antonino Guzzo helped open this restaurant after becoming fed up working in places where Italian recipes were poorly treated, and as such it’s no surprise that the pizzas here are the real deal. Crisp, slightly chewy bases are what raises them into the realms of special, while generous and high quality toppings seal the deal. The self-titled Rustico pizza with Italian sausage, onions and roasted peppers is one to try. Takeaway also available.
Rustico, 271 Clapham Road, SW9 9BQ
Santa Maria, Ealing
Authentic Neapolitan pizzas are this itsy west London restaurant’s reason for being. In cohorts with a blistering wood-fired oven, the chefs here create chewy-based pizzas with pleasantly charred edges and simple toppings made special through the use of tip-top Italian produce. For the ultimate display of how less is more, try the Santa Bufalina: tomato, buffalo mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil. Be aware that service can be rushed and that the staff’s genuine Italian passion doesn’t always fall in line with more typical British politeness, but we’ve not been deterred. Whatever you do, just don’t take someone who’s going to order just a salad.
Santa Maria, 15 St Mary’s Road, W5 5RA
Feeling more like a local caff than a fully-fledged restaurant, this Exmouth Market staple is quite a hangout for local Italians – always a good sign. The signature is pizzas served by the metre, made with varying toppings along the stretch. So long as you have a couple of people to share with, it’s definitely the way to go about things. Toppings are traditional and all the better for it, but if you’re after something a little different, there’s always the i panuozzi, a kind of pizza sandwich made with cooked dough filled with the same good stuff that would usually end up on top.
Santore, 59-61 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QL
Saporitalia, Notting Hill
Set at the heart of Portobello Road, this Neapolitan pizzeria prides itself on its rich and gooey buffalo mozzarella. A relatively short selection of pizzas sticks to the classics, but takes many of them to new levels thanks to this and other superb Italian ingredients. The simply named Saporitalia pizza combines luscious puddles of the cheese with fresh basil, tangy extra virgin olive oil and just a little tomato sauce, and we’re not sure it could easily be bettered.
Saporitalia, 222 Portobello Road, W11 1LJ
Situated next to Streatham Hill station, Addommè is a relative newcomer on the London pizza scene, but it has already built up a loyal following. When we first published this article we were met with screams of "BUT WHERE IS ADDOMMÈ?!", so we knew we had to pay the Neapolitan Pizzeria a visit ourselves. Pizza and pasta dishes are freshly made, full of flavour and utterly delicious. The sourdough pizzas are a particular highlight - made from homemade pizza dough and topped with simple, fresh ingredients before being cooked to crispy-outside/soft-inside perfection. The restaurant itself is tiny (book ahead!), unpretentious and when we went, full of regulars who the owners greeted like old family friends. We can see why it’s a favourite.
There’s plenty to like about this Peckham pizza pub. Firstly, it’s pizza in pub. Secondly, the crisp based pizzas are topped with inventive but never outlandish combinations of carefully sourced ingredients. And thirdly, they offer the option of spelt bases which not only taste better and have a wonderfully chewy texture, but are also lower in gluten than wheat versions.
In terms of credentials, Princi has it pretty good. This Wardour Street restaurant is an outpost of a popular Milanese bakery chain, and it was introduced to London by no other than Alan Yau, the man responsible for high-end restaurants Hakkasan and Yauatcha, as well as the Busaba Eathai and Wagamama chains. The main self-service restaurant-cum-bakery can be chaotic at best and the service hapless at worst, but the adjoining pizzeria offers table service as well as some tasty if thick and doughy pizzas. Some rate it, others slate it. We stand somewhere in the middle, but certainly don’t visit if thin and crisp bases are what you’re after.
Rocca Di Papa
Coming from the same stable as Franco Manca, there are branches in South Kensington and Dulwich Village. Catering more for the yummy mummy brigade than the former’s cool kid crowd, the pizzas are otherwise fairly similar.
If you like what you get at Ealing’s Santa Maria, then check out this sister restaurant in Kensal Rise. We marginally prefer the atmosphere at the original, but the pizzas are no let down.
There’s a touch of controversy about this Shoreditch pizzeria. Mainly because it isn't really a pizzeria at all. Ultra-thin baked bases are topped with primarily raw ingredients. Combinations such as chorizo, pumpkin and goat’s cheese or ham, blue cheese and spinach are certainly tantalising, but they feel more like topped flatbreads than true pizzas. Either way, they are worth a try; be warned that they cost £17 a pop, though.
Where's your perfect pizza? Have we missed a local gem? Let us know in the comments below.
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital's top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.