Next door to Ealing Studios’ watering hole, the Red Lion, this pocket-sized pizzeria puts real heart into its offerings. Owners Angelo and Pasquale, finding nowhere in London to match the pizza of their upbringing, set about recreating an authentic slice of Naples in W5. Authentic, it doubtless is. Everything from the wood-fired oven to the Caputo flour and parmigiano reggiano is imported; the lightly salted dough is given a 24-hour rise; the tomatoes crushed by hand; the mozzarella cut in precise pieces that melt just-so.
It’s all done with bucket-loads of cultural pride and results in magnificent pizza, charred to loveliness with a beautifully chewy base. Within weeks of its opening back in 2010, Time Out voted Santa Maria London’s Best Pizzeria – more rewarding, says Pasquale, than Italy winning the World Cup. But controversy kicked in almost immediately, with busy, sometimes rushed, service raising eyebrows. Santa Maria calls the ‘order, eat and leave’ attitude ‘tipico napoletano’; plenty find it off-putting. The verdict? It’s tiny, rightfully popular and doesn’t take bookings. If you come for cracking pizza and a pint next door, you’re in for a treat – but don’t cross London expecting to linger all night.