This is the sister restaurant of Santa Maria in Ealing, which opened in the summer of 2012. Like Santa Maria, at Sacro Cuore (“Sacred Heart”) no reservations are taken. This restaurant is dedicated to authentic Neapolitan pizza (by contrast pizzas in Roman style are thin and crispy), with a wood-fired oven reaching 465C, allowing pizzas to be cooked in well under a minute. Pizzas originated in Naples in the 18th Century as food for the poor, and the locals even have a society, "The True Neapolitan Pizza Association" which sets down rules for what constitutes authentic pizza: for example, the oven must be wood-fired, the pizza cooked for less than 90 seconds, the flour must be "OO", cheese must be buffalo milk mozzarella, etc. One characteristic of the Naples style pizza is that its texture is soft and pliable (in the words of the society "soft, elastic and bendable"), rather than crisp. In the strict defintion of this society, only two pizzas count: "Napoletana" and "Margherita". Clearly, few pizzas outside of Naples are likely to meet these precise criteria, but here is an establishment where they claim to follow the rules 100%.
The Sacro Cuore room is simple, with a wooden floor and bare tables that are tightly packed. There are a few starters, and we tried a pleasant and generously proportioned garlic focaccia (£3.95), flavoured with oregano and cooked briefly in the oven. The point of this place, though, is the pizza, and this did not disappoint. The dough for the base is allowed to rest for 24 hours, and is flexible though not quite as soft as some others (such as the sourdough base used at Franco Manca). Pizza fanatics are, like all fanatics, not to be argued with, so some will prefer a base a little softer, some a little crisper. To my taste, the base was excellent. Toppings were reasonable, but here I think there is room for some improvement e.g. the olives used here seemed to me less good than the Franco Manca ones. However, to be comparing this with another top London pizzeria is quibbling – this is undeniably excellent pizza, some of the very best in London. It tasted to me of the same standard as at Santa Maria, and considerably better than most pizzas I have eaten in Italy. We tried two pizzas, the diavola (£8.95) and capricciosa (£9.95), which are very fair prices when you consider these cost no more than many dismal high street chains (13/20).
Certainly the quality of the side salad was ordinary, with tomatoes that had nominal taste, decent leaves and a little dressing; pleasant, but no more (12/20 salad). For dessert, tiramisu is made from scratch, and had reasonable coffee flavour, though the texture was less attractive than ones I have eaten at high quality restaurants in Italy, being insufficiently moist; still, this was very pleasant (13/20). Ice creams are bought in (from Oddono in South Kensington) so I will not score these. Of the ones I tried, the vanilla was the poorest, with not much in the way of vanilla flavour, but chocolate ice cream was good and the pistachio ice cream was the best of all, having excellent depth of flavour. Coffee was pleasant rather than anything more.
Service was friendly and capable (and here Sacro Cuore wins hands down over Franco Manca in my experience). The bill, with beer to drink, came to £24 a head. This is fair value for what is very fine pizza indeed. No wonder there was already a queue forming early on a Tuesday evening, just a week after the restaurant had opened.
RT @Richardvines: The @JamavarLondon folks to open Dabbawala serving classic Mumbai dishes and tiffin boxes at the Hibiscus site next month.