The best dough in the capital city
Naples, New York, Chicago, Detroit: all of these cities have laid claim to perfecting the art of the pizza pie. But in London, and perhaps only in London, every great tradition from across the Western world comes together: here, in the big smoke, one can eat the best of Europe and America without even needing your passport.
As the capital swells with more Italian imports and forays into US tradition, we at GQ wanted to give you a guide on where to go. After all, this is a city thronging with chains and shysters that want you to give in and only experience a mediocre margherita. Here are some of the very best in the city, regardless of how you like your toppings, and the vibe you want. Feel free to bring us a slice as thanks.
And if you’re still searching for the perfect place to eat this evening? Take a look at our pick of the best restaurants in London.
Cecconi's Pizza Bar
The Soho House staple, Cecconi’s, has always been a low-lit, stylish haunt with quality Italian food. In May 2018, the franchise added its pizza bar to the collective - located in the heart of Soho, it’s part club (with DJs playing disco bangers), part traditional Italian eatery.
What to expect: Pizza is the star of the show, but the menu still has plenty of Italian offerings. The zucchini fritti are expertly crisp and salty. The salmon, with tomato, capers and olives, is a hearty main which is subtly seasoned.
Dough notes: Wood-fired oven pizzas, with a crisp and charred crust. The tomato sauce is plentiful, with generous mozzarella portions which slide off each portion.
19-21 Old Compton St, Soho, London W1D 5JJ. cecconispizzabar.com. The 3pm – 6pm deal, Sunday – Friday: includes £5 cocktails, £5 jugs of beer & £5 plates of pasta
© Jamie Lau
Santa Maria Pizzeria
The famed London pizza sanctum can now be found in Fitzrovia, Ealing and Fulham, where they’ll serve you some of the best pizza in London. The vibe is light, airy and incredibly friendly: you’ll feel like you’re sat toasting away another day of your Italian holiday without the airfare or the exchange rate.
What to expect: A full slate of delicious pizzas, plus some astonishingly good starters. The meatballs – especially the ’nduja and ricotta – are out of this world. The virtues of the appetisers carry through to the pizza: ballsy, rich but perfectly balanced.
Dough notes: There’s a real char to the dough: if that’s why you come for wood-fired pizza, you’re going to get it in abundance. It’s never more notable than in the tomato-less pies such as the San Giuseppe: with smoked mozzarella on top as well as the bitter greens of the friarielli, it’s a completely new combination of different flavour notes for a pizza to hit. We, for one, loved it. 15 St Mary’s Road, London W5; 94 Waterford Road, London SW6; 160 New Cavendish Street, W1W; santamariapizzeria.com
© Fabrizio Quagliuso
There are very few eateries in London where you can walk in with £10, order a main, a dessert and a cocktail and then come out with change, but Pizza Union is one of them. With locations in Aldgate, Dalston, Kings Cross and Spitalfields, Pizza Union serves up super-thin and super-crisp 12-inch pizzas that start at just £3.95 and, boy, do you get bang for your buck. Simple but brilliantly executed, the pizzas here don’t sacrifice any quality for their budget price tag and are so good you’ll be tempted to order another one for the road.
What to expect: A dirt-cheap menu of 16 pizzas that will make their way onto your plate at top speed. Each bite is packed full of flavour and comes with a satisfying crunch, making Pizza Union the perfect impromptu pit stop if you’re in the mood to elevate your dinner.
Dough notes: Light and crisp, the dough on these pizzas has a barely there quality, providing the perfect base to let your toppings of choice shine. But don’t fret, crust lovers: once you reach the edge of your slice you’ll be treated to a deliciously crisp dough that serves as the perfect partner to Pizza Union’s Parmesan dip. 29 Leman Street, London E1; 14 Kingsland High Street, London E8; 246-250 Pentonville Road, London N1; 25 Sandy’s Row, London E1. pizzaunion.com
© JAB Promotions
Tucked away on Notting Hill high street, Farina is a nondescript little gem for people exploring this particular neck of the woods.
What to expect: The pizzas are the reason to come to Farina, in particular its use of burrata, which elevates its pizzas with a miasma of cool, gooey cheese as if it were the sour cream on a perfect tray of nachos. Special mention also to Farina’s cannolo: little pistachio-dusted horns of heaven, they’re so good that you’d leave the gun and take them too.
Dough notes: Perfectly pliable, decently durable, the bedrock of a Farina pizza will do its due diligence to make sure you’re not mopping any San Marzanos out of your lap. It is less of a main character than in some other places, but when the food is this bolshy that’s no bad thing. 115 Notting Hill Gate, London W11; farinapizza.co.uk
50 Kalo di Ciro Salvo
The one with no airs and graces
Neapolitan pizza is a mythical beast, the best of the best, but while other openings have kept to small, chic spots with ascetic menus, 50 Kalo, one of Naples’ finest, is bold, brash and welcoming. Sat in an entirely unsexy location by Trafalgar Square, the venue feels a bit naff, which makes the exceptional pizzas feel all the more like a secret just between you and them.
What to expect: 50 Kalo has plenty of topping options, made with fresh ingredients including mozzarella from Campania and imported tomatoes. This is good, good eating.
Dough notes: Thin, oozing with sauce and fat, this is not first date food. But you will get all the crispiness and sauciness and flavour that you craved when you said to somebody ‘should we go get pizza tonight?’
7 Northumberland Ave, Westminster, London WC2N 5BY. xn--50kal-yta.it
The one with a New York accent
British pizza often draws from a desire to be like Italy, but across the Atlantic there’s another pizza tradition worth cribbing from. For anyone who wants the nearest experience to a New York pizza pie, you could do a lot worse than the laid back chill of Yard Sale.
What to expect: The pizza menu runs the gamut from herbier, fresher pizzas to the pure meat bonanzas you might find on Long Island. Expect big punchy flavours, the odd collaboration with another restaurant, and some amazing desserts.
Dough notes: Crispy where you want it, soft where you need it, on the scale of NYC pies this is definitely more Robertas than Two Bros. But all this is to say: it’s heaven on a plate (and lots of dips for your crusts if that’s your preference.)
Price per pizza: Pizzas range from £7.50 to £10 for an 18 inch beast.
Stores in: Clapton, Finsbury Park, Walthamstow, Leytonstone. yardsalepizza.com
The one with the seawater
This is the first restaurant in London to use purified seawater instead of salt, 'O Ver claims its dough is lighter and actually good for you...
What to expect: Originally a street stall in Naples, 'O Ver, meaning "truth" in the local dialect, prides itself on authenticity.
A word of warning: What 'O Ver boasts in height (four-meter ceilings) it lacks in capacity. By 7pm, it's a full house.
Dough notes: Sure, the pizza is great, but we also rate the carbonara and street-food bites.
Price per pizza: From £8.50 to £20.
44-46 Southwark Street, SE1. overuk.com
The one with Scandi creds
As you'd expect from Danish proprietors, the interior design of this cavernous affair under the Battersea railway arches is excellent.
What to expect: When Mother first opened in Copenhagen's meatpacking district seven years ago, it won an instant cult following. We anticipate food bloggers aplenty.
Dough notes: They have an extensive menu of 15 woodfire sourdough pizzas. Decision fatigue? Order the Pepperoni & Peperoni (tomato, mozzarella, marinated peppers, spicy salami, smoked cheese, parsley).
Price per pizza: From £8 to £14.
2 Arches Lane, SW11. motherrestaurant.co.uk
L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele
The one with the pedigree
Finally, a British outlet from the Napoli restaurant, regularly billed as "the best pizzeria in the world" (and fawned over by Julia Roberts' character in Eat Pray Love).
What to expect: The menu features only two (huge) pizzas: the marinara or the margarita with double mozzarella. Hats off to you if you can finish it.
Dough notes: Sloppy, soft and, despite being blasted at a temperature of 500C in the giant wood-fired oven shipped over from Naples, not a burnt crust in sight.
Price per pizza: £6.90 (and a queue).
199 Baker St, Marylebone, London NW1 6UY. facebook.com/anticapizzeriadamicheleuk
Pizza Pilgrims Playground
The one with the games
Pizza Pilgrims is offering a new "pizza playground" to city workers in need of blowing off steam.
What to expect: This three-floor, Grade I listed building is gigantic, seating 190 across three floors. As well as the dining tables, you'll also find a bocce ball court, table football and a private area for playing Mario Kart on a 65-inch TV.
Dough notes: Head chef Guiseppe has been making pizzas since he was 14. Try the spicy nduja margarita topping with its deliberately crisp, burnt crusts.
Price per pizza: From £5.50 to £12.
12 Hertsmere Road, E14. pizzapilgrims.co.uk