Story Deli, Shoreditch
Story Deli is so hipster, it doesn’t even have a sign on the door, just a twist of rope stuck to the outside wall. Inside are bare wooden tables, white walls and a lot of dubious facial topiary. The pizzas are closer to copiously topped flatbreads than tradition dictates, with some unusual combinations, including potato, chicken and chutney. At £15, they are not cheap, and it seems strange that a margherita (albeit one with buffalo mozzarella and fresh pesto) should cost the same as one with, inter alia, “air-cured smoked Ardennes ham”. But the thin bases puff up beautifully and the extra touches such as garlic-roasted mushrooms are outstanding.
3 Redchurch Street, E2, 07918 197352; www.storydeli.com
Pizza Metro, Battersea
Pizza Metro is an old-fashioned trattoria, complete with a cheesy fresco of a 19th-century Italian market and check tablecloths. It is also one of just seven pizzerias outside Italy to be recognised in the pizza edition of the Gambero Rosso, Italy’s equivalent of the Michelin guides. You can come for an individual pizza but PM is best enjoyed in a group, with pizza ordered by the metre. They char the crust properly and are very generous with cheese. Toppings are predictable: a cappricciosa (£10.50) comes with ham, salami, olives and mushrooms, a salsiccia with sweet peppers and rocket (£9.95). Avoid the house wine.
64 Battersea Rise, SW11, 020 7228 3812; www.pizzametropizza.com
Pizza East, Portobello
Pizza East’s detractors complain that no self-respecting Neapolitan pizzaiolo would put veal meatballs, prosciutto and cream on a pizza (£12). But these pizzas are closer to the Los Angeles model than that of Italy. That means the crusts are surprisingly wide, the pizzas sensibly sized and the toppings ingenious. Spicy sausage, mozzarella and broccoli (£13) is sublime, the vegetable balancing the fatty meat. The Portobello branch is in a former pub, its interior stripped down to bare walls, with distressed panelling, plain white tiles and lots of naked brick. (The Shoreditch version is a bit more corporate.) Extras such as smoked mackerel with puntarelle and capers (£4) or porcini croquettes (£5) are variable at best: stick to pizza.
310 Portobello Road, London W10, 020 8969 4500; www.pizzaeast.com
Central London suffers a dearth of truly great pizzerias, but this casual Sardinian in Belgravia is far better than average. Elizabeth Street is one of the prettiest shopping streets in London, making a Saturday lunch at Oliveto an assault course of bulky bags. The gorgonzola with speck or rocket (£12.80) has a deliciously thin and burnished base, the cheese generously scattered and obscured by liberal topping. Some regulars order their Oliveto pizzas with extra tomato sauce, since the pizzaiolo is unusually sparing in that department (apparently to prevent the dough from going soggy).
49 Elizabeth Street, SW1, 020 7730 0074; www.olivorestaurants.com
Santa Maria, Ealing
Santa Maria turns out consistently good pizzas with remarkable self-assurance – the proudly Neapolitan owners have been known to eject customers who don’t order a pizza each. They told me their best pizza is the margherita: mine would probably have benefited from longer in the oven, but the ingredients were clearly excellent and it’s fun to watch the pizzaiolo deftly turning the pizzas on his paddle so they cook evenly. Saint Mary herself presides over the room from a gaudy painting on chipboard. The best of the west.
15 Saint Mary’s Road, W5, 020 8579 1462; www.santamariapizzeria.com