With top quality pizza at rock-bottom prices, Santa Maria should be on every Londoner’s list
The first time I visited Santa Maria they had run out of dough. The surprising news was delivered with a characteristic Italian shrug and the recommendation to come back another time.
This happened just before the tiny South Ealing pizzeria was crowned London’s best by Time Out magazine and was, I discovered later, a consequence of the proprietors’ uncompromising zeal for fresh ingredients and traditional methods. The day’s dough is made 24 hours in advance and left to rise overnight so once it is used up that’s it. Keeping a frozen batch as a backup is not an option, I was told, as the resulting pizza does not meet their exacting standards.
While this experience was a one-off and such teething issues seem to be a thing of the past, the focus on quality was still very much in evidence when we visited this weekend. We started with two plates of Aubergines Parmigiana and a Garlic Mozzarella Focaccia which was perfect for our table of six. The tasty pizza dough of the focaccia is sprinkled with garlic oil, oregano and mozzarella and is a great match for the rich flavour of the aubergine baked in tomato sauce.
A you would expect, the pizzas that followed were excellent. Named for Italian saints both real and imagined, they showcase the quality and freshness of their imported ingredients more than any pizza I can recall.
The Sant’Anna is a vibrant study in traditional Italian flavours with mozzarella, prosciutto cotto ham, artichokes, parmesan, black olives and fresh basil, while the succulent Santa Rosa combines Neapolitan salame with fried aubergines and smoked mozzarella. Both come on a delicious base of tomato sauce boasting the kind of intense flavour that those accustomed to British produce can only dream of.
Meanwhile the San Giuseppe, one of three ‘white pizzas’ on the menu, omits the tomato and has a slightly softer flavour comprising mozzarella, Neapolitan sausage and friarielli, a type of wild broccoli, all of which is given a subtle warmth with a dusting of chilli flakes.
Crucially the pizza crust is one of the best around, boasting a thin base and tasty cornicione that’s both light and slightly chewy. The scorched, crispy exterior comes courtesy of the imported wood-fired oven that cooks a pizza in a speedy 90 seconds. Lunch was rounded off in typical Italian style with coffee and gelato from the award-winning Oddono’s.
Santa Maria offers fantastic pizza at a very, very reasonable price and it’s easy to see why this little gem draws customers from all over London. It is worth noting that you cannot book in advance and competition for seats is fierce, but the Red Lion pub next door is a pleasant place to pass the time and one of Santa Maria’s finest is undoubtedly worth the wait.
2 Aubergines Parmigiana
1 Garlic Mozzarella Focaccia
1 San Giuseppe
1 Santa Rosa
1 Santa Rosa (+prosciutto cotto)
1 San Daniele
1 Santa Caterina
5 San Pellegrino Limonata
1 Santa Maria Sparkling Water
2 Stracciatella One Scoop
2 Lemon One Scoop
Santa Maria Pizzeria
15 St.Mary’s Road