Originally a boozer, The Oak now plies its trade as a rustic Italian osteria complete with scrubbed wooden tables and a wood-fired pizza oven. Kick off with vitello tonnato, seared squid or
toasted bruschetta piled with creamy burrata before tackling an authentic thin-crust pizza, described by one reader as ‘probably the best in London’. If you’re looking for a sophisticated topping
try char-grilled zucchini, salted ricotta and truffle oil, otherwise satisfy any carnivorous cravings with Tuscan pork sausage and porcini. There are also a few please-all mains ranging from
calf’s liver with ratte potatoes and butternut squash to seared tuna with wild rocket and salsa verde. The no-bookings policy can irritate, but you can always head upstairs for ice-cold
martinis and dinky cicchetti nibbles while waiting for a table. Service receives praise.
The Oak - Westbourne Park Road
Anyone familiar with The Oak in Westbourne Grove will recognise the style at its sibling – a converted, one-time boozer not far from Olympia. Despite its pubby name, The Bird in Hand is essentially a “buzzy” neighbourhood eatery specialising in rustic regional Italian flavours. On offer, you’re likely to find a range of imaginative small plates divided into ‘garden’, ‘sea’, ‘land’ and ‘heaven’ – think wild mushroom arancini with chilli jam, cod croquettes with lime aïoli, lamb rump with black olive, parsley and caper salad or caramel nut tart with pear and praline ice cream. The highly popular, 12-strong line-up of pizzas also “deserves a special mention” (they’re “delicious” says a fan), while the wine list has some robust Italian bottles in addition to decent stuff from elsewhere in Europe. Italian aperitifs, cocktails and proper Italian coffee are also available at the “lovely” bar.
The Bird in Hand
Since opening in 2008, this miniature artisan enterprise has built a cult following – thanks to the quality of its wood-fired sourdough pizzas, which are cooked in a special Tufac brick oven imported from Naples. Locals are attracted by the rock-bottom prices and meticulously sourced ingredients, so it’s no wonder that queues form around the block for a taste of Franco’s delicious offerings. Just six different versions are available, topped with various combinations of tomatoes (imported from Salerno), Gloucester Old Spot ham, sausages from Brindisa, organic mozzarella and ricotta produced at Alham Wood in Somerset, fresh herbs, mushrooms and the like. Charcuterie platters and panuozzi (flame-baked bread with various toppings) play a supporting role, while drinks range from a pair of Piedmontese organic wines (red or white) to Sam Smith’s organic blond beer.
Franco Manca Brixton
Opened on Valentine’s Day 2010, Santa Maria is the real deal for lovers of pizza – complete with congenial young Neapolitan owners and a traditional Italian wood-fired oven. It’s a tiny place
and queues are common (there’s a no-bookings policy), but provenance is important here – from the Caputo flour used for making the crisp pizza bases to the La Donzelletta mozzarella in the
toppings, and the Gelati Oddono ices for afters. Perhaps start with some garlicky focaccia or aubergine parmigiana, before deliberating on the choice of nine pizzas: the San Mattia with mushrooms
and truffle oil is particularly alluring, or you might fancy a calzone stuffed with salame and ricotta. The drinks list is also a concise read, with wine limited to ‘red’ or ‘white’ by the
glass, bottle or carafe, plus beer from Peroni.
Santa Maria Ealing
Elvis would have loved Mulberry Street, not least because the leather booths are the same colour as his treasured purple Cadillac. Although the menu at this groovy, New York-style pizzeria boasts
an assortment of pastas & salads (not to mention sautéed king prawns arrabbiata & ‘Milly’s meatballs’), the real draw is the line-up of 20-inch, thin-crust pizzas ranging from a basic
margherita to the ‘chicken parmesan’. Kids are distracted by the vintage Tom & Jerry cartoons on the TV screens, while grown-ups knock back bottles of Brooklyn lager or shots of hard liquor. If
your appetite isn’t sated by a New York ‘hot’ with extra pepperoni & jalapeños, you can always make like the King & round things off with a whopping hot fudge sundae or chocolate pizza.
"One of London's best pizzas!" trumpets one ardent fan, and we're inclined to agree with his verdict. Occupying a prime corner spot, Pizza Pilgrims started out as brothers Thom and James Elliot in a van on a pilgrimage across Italy to find a pizza worth worshipping. The pair clearly succeeded in their mission because their covetable and crisp Neapolitan sourdough pizzas belie the capabilities of a cramped open kitchen. "Excellent authentic ingredients" go into toppings such as portobello mushroom and truffle or margherita and n'duja, with back-up from sides of smoky tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella or piquant marinated artichoke hearts with prosciutto. Lemon sorbet or gelato from nearby Gelupo are spot on for dessert, while the drinks range from Italian and British craft beers to cocktails in tumblers, plus the specially created lemon Pococello. "Brilliant value for money" too.
Pizza Pilgrims Soho
There are pizza joints and there are pizza joints. At Voodoo Ray’s you’d have to be very hungry to get through an entire pizza – most people settle for two or three slices. Using imported Caputo flour from Italy to make the base, the chefs here produce giant 22-inch pizzas, New York-style. On top you’ll find proper fior di latte mozzarella and a pizza sauce made from genuine imported San Marzano tomatoes. The various options change regularly, featuring such names as King Tubby (fennel and chilli sausage, cavolo nero, marinated tomatoes, caramelised onions) and Shrooms (wild mushrooms, roast butternut squash, Taleggio, red onions), and as ordering by the slice is the norm, customers get to mix and match as much as they like. Wash down your choice with something from the US-leaning craft beer list, or try one of the house Margaritas.
Voodoo Ray's Dalston
Always jam-packed, the brilliant Shoreditch branch of the Pizza East mini chain continues to deliver the goods. Funky, ‘attentive’ staff whizz round the outsized, wood-heavy dining room, delivering
fine pizzas with full-flavoured toppings such as San Daniele ham with mozzarella, porcini and pecorino or guanciale (pork cheek) with burrata and cipollini onions, while pizza-phobes can seek
solace in big boards of charcuterie, osso bucco or sea bass with borlotti beans and peppers. Starters are a step up from your typical pizza joint, too, whether it’s a plate of fritto misto or a
bowl of chicken livers on polenta with a spicy calabrese sauce. The Italian-leaning wine list does the job, with plenty of choice under £30. Afterwards, head downstairs to the aptly named Concrete
bar for thumping beats – and even a spot of ‘musical bingo’.
Pizza East Shoreditch
One of a quartet of Sardinian restaurants in Belgravia, bubbly Oliveto attracts a younger crowd than its siblings – thanks largely to its terrific stone-baked pizzas. If a thin-crusted beauty
topped with, say, spiced Italian sausage and onions doesn’t take your fancy, there are also rousing and ‘imaginative’ pastas ranging from aubergine, walnut and ricotta ravioli to spaghetti with sea
urchins and chilli. To finish, bitter-honey frozen yoghurt beats tiramisu in the innovation stakes. The wine cellar tours the vineyards of Sardinia, or you can opt for a glass of the island’s hoppy
Ichnusa beer. A jazzy olive-leaf design and polished wooden tables create a good-time vibe, and smiley staff look like they’re enjoying themselves as they feed locals and tourists seeking a change
from the big chains. ‘Not fancy, just excellent’, chimes one fan.
“Perfect if you don’t fancy a packed Soho bar or full-on restaurant”, Princi is a seriously popular all-day pit-stop noted for its “fabulous Milanese decor” and “gorgeous Italian light bites”. Set up by serial restaurateur Alan Yau, the light-filled café does a roaring trade in chic breakfasts, all-too-tempting cakes, savoury pastries and colourful salads, with fresh juices, proper coffee, Italian wines and cocktails to wash it all down. It’s terribly chic, although it can seem like a “touristy madhouse” at peak times – even if the place is well managed by staff dressed in spotless white uniforms. Berths at the high communal tables and street-facing counters are at a premium, and there’s also plenty of action in the adjoining restaurant, where table service and a menu of excellent wood-fired pizzas beckon. There are queues for takeaways, too.
‘Osteria’ is an apt description of this Notting Hill institution, where diners are treated to unpretentious cooking served by a friendly ‘host’ in a bucolic setting of antique pine dressers, dried
flowers & scrubbed wooden tables, that hasn’t changed since the early 90s. Pile your plate with appetising morsels from the antipasti buffet, or opt for starters ranging from deep-fried
calamari to smoked mozzarella. Pizzas are the real deal with thin crusts & traditional toppings although pasta is the true star: exemplary spaghetti alla vongole with cherry tomatoes makes you
realise how good this seafood classic can be. Secondi of char-grilled tuna or lamb cutlets with rosemary sauce are made with prime ingredients, with price tags to match – stick to pasta & a
glass of house wine if you want change from £20.
With their dickie bows & dapper waistcoats, the genial old waiters who work the tables at Il Bordello are dab hands at ‘buona sera’. Their old-fashioned cheer works like a charm on the local
families & parties of suited types who use this place as a second home. Though it doesn’t actually have red-checked tablecloths & flasks of Chianti, they’re here in spirit – & the
prospect of huge bowlfuls of piping hot spag bol or ginormous pizzas helps things along nicely. A vast menu of retro antipasti, meaty ‘secondi’ & suchlike is supplemented by a blackboard of
luxurious specials including fillet steak with porcini, lobster aurora & turbot. Throw in an accessible list of Italian wines with plenty below £20 & you can see why booking is absolutely
They take pizzas seriously at this lively venue, which attracts a motley crew of celebrity neighbours, regulars & tourists. The slow-rising sourdough takes 42 hours to prepare before being
baked in a custom-built oven to give an airy texture & crisp crust, while toppings tick all the usual Parma ham/mozzarella boxes. If you’re famished – or looking to share – then order by the
metre. There’s also a daily selection of fresh seafood such as sea bass, bream & squid, which are simply grilled & doused in olive oil & fresh mint for a taste of southern Italy. The
rustic-style dining room can get rammed at weekends, so book ahead or be prepared to give your table back after 90 minutes. A large, heated terrace ensures a regular turnover on fine days.
Portobello Ristorante Pizzeria
Moscow-meets-Amalfi at this Russian-backed Italian, which - on the plate at least – does a pretty good job of whisking you away to an Italian trattoria. Cavernous Mayfair-by-numbers interiors (Imposing reception desk? Tick. Plush beige seats? Tick. Columns, muted colour scheme and lots of giant chandeliers? Tick, tick, tick.) are a million miles away from an alfresco table at a piazza, but it’s the quality of ingredients and an expert pasta chef that does the talking here.
We kicked off with a creamy, oozing buratta with cherry tomatoes and some exquisite wafer-thin coppa, before being bowled over by the quality of the freshly made pasta. Bright yellow tagliatelle swimming in a buttery sauce and topped with a decadent, perfumed and nutty black truffle, and a comparatively rustic (but devilishly hard to perfect) pici cacio e pepe – tagiatelle with pecorino Romano and black pepper – were truly bellisimo. The lengthy menu also features a host of trattoria staples – veal Milanese, frittura mista - as well as over a dozen pizzas. For desert, hazelnut semi-freddo is a good pick. This being Mayfair, service is top-notch and there’s a sommelier to help guide you through the Italian wine list, although none of this comes for cheap.
Originally a pop-up, Homeslice has found a permanent home for its wood-fired pizza oven among the craft stores, rainbow cafés and natural apothecaries of Neal’s Yard. Weekend shoppers and tourists
join a young local crowd in the buzzy whitewashed dining room with its plain wooden tables and vintage industrial vibe. There's only one thing on the menu – although a changing roll call of artisan
toppings sets Homeslice apart from your average high-street pizzeria. Creative combinations include moist pork belly with zesty chimichurri and smoked onions or white anchovy with chard, Doddington
cheese and a spritz of orange zest. All come with perfectly crisp bases and delicious doughy crusts; order by the slice or get stuck into the magnificent 20-inch version, washed down with crisp
Saint lager, Prosecco or house wines delivered in measurable magnums (simply pay for what you drink). Takeaway slices, too.
Homeslice Covent Garden