What can you tell us about Santa Maria Pizza?
Santa Maria has a reputation for making some of the best pizzas in London, in both its Ealing and Fulham branches, winning many, many trophies and awards along the way. But if you haven't had the chance to head west to try them out, now there's no excuse - as they've opened in a much more central location.
So where have they opened?
This time, they've come much closer to the heart of London, landing right in the middle of Fitzrovia. The nearest tube is Goodge Street, but it's no more than a 5-10 minute walk from Great Portland Street or Warren Street too.
Do they take bookings?
They do not - so in busier times, you'll have to put your name down on a list and wait for them to call you. But you can just head somewhere nearby for a drink while you wait.
So, if we're waiting - where's good for a drink?
We had a quick pint in the Fitzrovia Draft House, about five minutes away (but it's one of the smaller Draft Houses) or you could head five minutes in the other direction up Cleveland Street to the Remedy wine bar, which we heartily recommend. There are many more pubs in the area to pick from too.
Once we're through the front door, what should we expect on the menu?
Pizzas, of course - but we're going to assume you knew that. We'll get to those in a moment because there's a lot more to choose from before you get to those pizzas.
We actually chose the garlic focaccia (£4.50) while we were perusing the menu - but have to admit that this may have been a tiny mistake. It's well worth holding back on the carbs until the main event. I mean we did, of course, eat all the garlic focaccia put in front of us and it was wonderful - but then we have no self-control.
Otherwise, highly recommended is the Caponata - the classic vegetable stew with added pine nuts (£4.50). If you only have a taste of the bread that comes with it, that'll set you up nicely for the main event. And make room for the excellent meatballs - either classic (San Marzano tomato sauce and Parmesan - £5.95) or with njuda and ricotta.
But that's scratching the surface of the starters. We'd happily return for the Aubergines Parmigiana, Rucolina and more, all of which we saw being served up around us.
But onto the pizzas. What's so special about them?
Obviously, we couldn't try all of them (we'd be willing to try, mind) but key to the success of any pizza is its base, and that's something that Santa Maria have perfected with their traditional Neopolitan pizzas and their perfectly chewy base. We had high expectations, having never actually been to any of the other Santa Marias, and this easily met them. We've had a LOT of pizzas in London over the years and we can now see how these are rated among the very best.
As for the toppings - we went for two pizzas, one with and one without the tomato base. First, there was the San Giuseppe (£9.95) with smoked mozzarella, rare breed Yorkshire sausage, parmesan, friarielli (wild broccoli) and no tomato sauce. Then the Santa Rosa (£9.95) - tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella, salame Napoli, roasted aubergines. Both were excellent - with the salame and the Yorkshire sausage earning particular praise. But we have to say that the tomato-based pizza won the day.
The Santa Rosa made it to the top of our list for one more reason - we pimped it up with burrata. Now we love burrata, it's just one of our favourite things. We just never knew it was possible to order a pizza with an entire ball of burrata plonked in the middle (an extra £2.50). This is how we want all our pizzas presented to us from now on, please.
Leave some room for dessert?
If you can. There is a dessert menu, which isn't listed on their website. We were slightly at the "wafer-thin-mint" moment of the meal at this point but if you can pause for a moment before ordering dessert, then we'd definitely recommend the sfogliatella Napoletana, exceedingly good custard-filled Neapolitan pastry.
And how about drink?
There's a short and very affordable drinks list on offer. We actually stuck with the perfectly fine house white, which was a very reasonable £4 a glass and £17 a bottle, with carafe sizes in-between. There are three more whites and reds and if you're splashing out there's a Sauvignon Blanc at £38.50 and an Amarone Classico della Valpolicella at £50. Alongside that, plenty of soft options, Italian beers and the odd cocktail.
We've been hearing about Santa Maria for so long that there's always the chance that high expectations are very hard to meet. But this pizzeria is just as good as we'd heard, and of course there's that option for awesome burrata-pimped pizzas. Santa Maria offers good-value, excellent pizza, and if that's what you fancy, head their way.
Hot Dinners were invited to Santa Maria. Prices are correct at the time of writing.
More about Santa Maria Fitzrovia
Where is it? 160 New Cavendish St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 6YR
How to book: No reservations, walk-ins only
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