It is fascinating to see the development of gourmet pizza on the London dining scene in recent years. Both Santa Maria and Franco Manca started out around the same period in 2008-2010. and both have gone on to great success opening multiple branches across the country. I rarely mention other restaurants in my reviews, but such is the influence of Franco Manco these days, I was introduced by a waiter at Santa Maria Fitzrovia that their pizzas are authentic Neapolitan versions which do not use sourdough.
The location of their latest Fitzrovia branch is very central but not necessarily a part of London people tend to visit unless you are a university student or working in the media industry. The decor is appealing with pastel shades of pink and green and an ultra-modern wall mural of Santa Maria di Merino, the patron saint of Vieste. You also can’t help to notice their giant wood-fired oven at the back of the restaurant.
The classics are all present on the menu and I just couldn’t resist ordering the aubergines parmigiana. The key to this dish is making sure there’s a right balance of aubergine compared to the parmesan, mozzarella, and tomatoes and they certainly delivered at Santa Maria. My guest was trying to be diet-conscious and ordered the rucolina which was basically wild rocket and cherry tomatoes, but even then it contained shaved parmesan cheese. The secret to eternal happiness is possibly parmesan.
I decided to embrace the cheese lovefest on the menu by ordering the calzone San Salvatore, which was packed with not only parmesan but also mozzarella and ricotta. It also had liberal layers of cotto ham and salame Napoli. The calzone tasted remarkably moist and the meats were not overcooked at all, no doubt thanks to the pizza being folded up.
They have an extensive section devoted to vegan pizzas such is the way menus are developing these days. We ordered the Sant’Andrea which was a white pizza (without tomatoes) that caused a considerable difference of opinion on the dining table. My guest wasn’t a fan of the cream of potato base which he thought resembled smash whilst I was quite pleased with the slightly grainy texture of the base. Although the lack of tomatoes with their tangy sweetness made the pizza harder to finish. It was covered with copious amounts of onions in soy milk, red and yellow peppers, portobello mushrooms and olives.
Judging by the crowds of Italians in the restaurant during our weekend visit, this authentic Neapolitan pizzeria is only going to go from strength to strength.