I love thin crust pizzas. Not the thinner than deep pan kinds but the really, really thin ones….the ones we had at Pizzeria La Montecarlo in Rome. While the cracker thin crust I recalled wasn’t exactly achieved at Pizza Union, it makes a good attempt at these thin crust Roman-style pizzas. And they’re extremely budget friendly!

Pick Up

The most expensive pizza on the menu at Pizza Union is £6.50; the cheapest is £3.95. For that price, you get a large thin-crust pizza that is plenty for one for a meal. If you need dessert, there’s a sweet dough ring with mascarpone and nutella (I didn’t try it but it looked amazing) or gelato from Oddono’s. We started with drinks and olives while we waited for the buzzer to go off, letting us know when to pick up our pizzas.

Olives and San Pellegrino

My Calabria, with mascarpone, spicy n’duja sausage and rocket, was excellent with plenty of each ingredient. The n’duja gave a lovely punch to the crisp pizza. Again, not the thinnest but thin enough. If you’re expecting soft, fluffy Neapolitan-style pizzas, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Calabria

Blai’s Regina, with parmesan, ham, mushrooms and olives, was a classic and I think the layer of melting cheese worked well with the crisp base. Oozy cheese, crispy base. Yes.

Regina

For dessert, we shared a tub of gelato (£2.50) which was generously filled though a little denser than we like it – unlike freshly scooped. But like everything else on the menu, it’s very good value.

The place does fill up quickly on a Saturday night (when we went) but with lots of communal tables, you’re sure to find a seat; the pizzas also fly out so turnaround is quick. I like it very much.

Pizza Union
246-250 Pentonville Road
King’s Cross
London N1 9JY

There’s a second branch in Spitalfields.

Sometime in the past year, I was saying to Blai, “You know what? If only we had some good Thai food and some good Neapolitan pizza, we’d be sorted here in Croydon.” Well, there’s good pizza at our brilliant neighbourhood Italian joint Bagatti’s but that’s not Neapolitan and there’s excellent Neapolitan pizza in neighbouring Beckenham but that’s not nearby. But then, out of seemingly nowhere two weeks ago, one shopfront on South End in Croydon opened up with a massive wood fired oven by the window and a sign: Pizzeria Pellone.

What was this?! And I could’ve sworn there was nothing there in the first place – it was like a miraculous appearing house (sort of like that one in the Harry Potter books). A quick Google search found a Pizzeria Pellone in Herne Hill and this was to be their second branch. My hopes were high and not long after they opened, I dragged Blai and another friend there for an early Saturday dinner. We were ushered to a table near the oven, a welcome warm spot and where we could watch the pizza chef do his thing. We originally thought of getting some starters but in the end went straight to mains, and we’re glad we went down this route.

Blai’s Napoletana was splendid… and huge! These pizzas were a good size but, of course, we’re not complaining.

Napoletana

My Salsiccia Friarielli was generously topped with the bitter Neapolitan greens. Our pizzas were both fantastic – good crusts, generous toppings, big enough to share.

Salsiccia Friarielli

My friend’s Calzone Fritto, filled with fior di latte cheese, ricotta, tomato, and salami, was impressively non-greasy. This is their signature pizza and their only fried offering. I’m glad to have tried it but I’m going to be more loyal to the pizzas coming out of their wood-fired oven.

Calzone Fritto

But now that I think about it, they have a deep fryer. They could have little fried bits like they do in Naples – the bits that you munch on while waiting for your pizza. I’m just sayin’.

There were some greens too – a pleasant rocket salad.

Rocket Salad

A couple of bought-in, but excellent, desserts (tiramisu and a chocolate coated babà – the latter was well boozy) rounded off our meal. It’s a shame they’re not homemade but hey, it’s all about the pizza here.

Tiramisu

Babà

Our bill for the three of us came to about £35 in total and it even came with a complimentary limoncello each!

In the last couple of weeks, the place looks like it’s getting popular and I hope it goes down well with Croydoners. Service can be a bit sluggish but that seems down to the fact that all the waitstaff were new – I hope this improves. Finally, pizza Napolitana in Croydon!

Pizzeria Pellone
256 High Street
Croydon CR0 1NE

It had been a lazy day in Marseille. We had missed the bus to Cassis and instead took another couple of buses to Marseille’s beaches south of the main city. A very lazy day by the beach. And what was for dinner that night? Pizza. Pizza in Marseille? Yes, and I was really looking forward to it, especially after my great pizza experiences in Nice a couple years ago and also another cheap pizza we scoffed earlier on this trip. My French colleague had sent me off with only one recommendation for Marseille – Chez Etienne – which specialises in, you guessed it, pizza.

The restaurant is easy enough to find in Le Panier, Marseille’s oldest neighbourhood just north of the port. We got there quite early (19:30) and got a table, no problem. However, it started filling up swiftly and when we left, it was completely packed. Get there early.

Pizzaria Etienne

Service was generally grumpy here. There was one or two friendlier waiters but in general, don’t expect anything too pleasant. It’s a good thing the food was good!

There are only two pizzas available at Etienne: anchovy or cheese. We followed the suggestion of my colleague and ordered a pizza moitié-moitié, half and half (€14). The pizza arrived on a tray and the surly waitress dumped half of it on each of our plates and whisked the tray away. The anchovy pizza was just anchovy and black olives and tomato sauce and was very good but what was even better was that ooey gooey cheese pizza (also with olives). The crust was thin and almost cracker-like; it felt like a particular unique sort of Marseillaise pizza. If I get the opportunity to return, I shall be only ordering that amazing cheese pizza.

Pizza

We followed our pizza starter with an order of their famous supions (€16), the little squids popular in the Marseille area. Here they had been sliced up and fried with a healthy amount of garlic and parsley and a little something to give them a bit of a coating – flour? Anyway, they were delicious, all garlicky and tender and made just perfect with a squeeze of lemon. The man next to us was also a visitor to Marseille and when he asked a (friendlier) waitress for a suggestion, she suggested the supions; I’ve also since heard that they’re considered some of the best in the city.

Supions

Bread (perfect for mopping up the garlicky juices) and a dressed salad were served alongside. However, we found the salad dressing to be just a bit too spicy, having been made with an uncomfortable amount of hot mustard.

Salad

The rest of their menu looked good, especially their pastas and meats we spied on neighbouring tables. The pizza is a must, though, and is what they’re famous for. Apparently in earlier days, everyone eating at the restaurant was forced to eat pizza as a starter!

Chez Etienne
43, Rue de Lorette
13002 Marseille
France

It was about 4pm Thursday afternoon when we landed in Naples and 5pm when we dropped off our bags and went out in search of pizza. We needed to eat and fortify ourselves as my friend and I were soon off on a stag night and hen night, respectively (egads). My copy of Saveur featuring pizza in Naples had a good list of places in the old town and the hotel receptionist was adamant that the best on the list and the best in Naples was at Michele. So, to Michele we went.

The tiny restaurant was still empty when we arrived (just shy of 6pm) but started filling very quickly after we sat down.

Da Michele

A wood burning oven was sitting in the corner but we barely felt the heat from it (was there air conditioning?). A few pizzaioli were moving swiftly about, preparing the pizzas, slipping them into the oven and then whisking them out, all hot and steaming.

Wood Burning Oven

I love their very minimal menu. Two kinds of pizza (margherita and marinara), a few size options, a double mozzarella option and drinks – that’s it! We both had drinks and normal margherita pizzas.

Menu

Our pizzas arrived very quickly.

Pizzas

Mine was a thing of beauty. The crust was beautifully blistered from the intense heat of the oven and was amazingly tender yet chewy. Oh, it was delicious. How delicious it was.

Pizza Margherita

And I couldn’t get over how delicious the tomato sauce was; I can see now the point of a marinara pizza. While the cheese was excellent, I could see how it’s not always necessary!

Was it the best pizza in Naples? I have no idea as I’d need to try them all but I know that this was the best pizza I’d ever had (possibly). Highly recommended if you’re in Naples. A queue was already forming when we left so get in there early to get a table immediately.

Oh, and the hen night? Yeah, I survived (and even fit in a second pizza that night!).

L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale, 1-3
80139 Naples
Italy

I’ll try to keep this one brief. Last Thursday, we went to Santa Maria Pizzeria in Ealing, voted recently as having the best pizzas in London by TimeOut magazine. It’s not far from where we live and so off we went. We were looking forward to trying their authentic Neapolitan style pizzas all baked in a wood burning oven.

When we got there, the tiny place was utterly packed and we were told to wait. We were perfectly fine with this and about half an hour later, a couple left and we got their table. However, after we sat down and were given menus, we had to wait another very long while to get our order in. To her credit, the waitress did let us know that she was coming to take our order soon but the third time she came over to say it was really taking the piss. Service was inefficient to say the least.

Santa Caterina

First impressions of the pizzas that arrived were good: the crust was thin and crisp, the centre of the pizza held its own, and the toppings looked good. The first few bites of my Santa Caterina pizza (tomato sauce, mozzarella, Neapolitan salame, fresh chilli, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan, basil) were good too – the crust had a good balance of crispiness and chew and was lighter than that of Franco Manca. Unfortunately, it sort of went downhill from there. Firstly, the tomato sauce was quite bland, lacking a good tomato flavour. And as I continued eating the pizza, I noticed that the crust lost all of its appeal as it cooled down. Towards the end, the crust became too hard and too chewy and my jaw was getting quite the workout. But really, my main complaint is with the tomato sauce – I want to taste that sauce, not just feel it. (The tomato sauce on the pizzas in Rome still stick in my memory.)

I also tasted Blai’s Santa Carmela (tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto cotto, mushrooms, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan, basil) and his was considerably underdone on top (you can see how pale it is in the photo below) while inexplicably, the bottom was quite charred – too charred. Was this an off day? I have no idea but the kitchen sure didn’t seem rushed.

Santa Carmela

Trying to get the bill was a chore. Our waitress had disappeared and the other waiter was too busy chatting to his mate on his mobile to look up onto the heaving room; we ended up walking up to the counter to pay. I’ve read the other reviews online – most people have commented on the warm and welcoming service at Santa Maria; we found it to be the total opposite on our visit – it was cold and indifferent.

Best pizza in London? Well, they were good but I’m not convinced they are the best. I had really wanted to love them but we left disappointed. Others have had better experiences so I do hope it’s the same for you.

Santa Maria
15 St Marys Road
Ealing
London W5 5RA

Santa Maria on Urbanspoon