Santa Maria opened in February 2010, and along with the original Franco Manca in Brixton market it redefined pizza in London. Before Santa Maria London had progressed through the chain offerings of Pizza Hut and its rivals, with Pizza Express seeming the height of sophistication. Santa Maria brought Naples style pizza to the capital in a serious way, educating the locals that a pizza base could be pliable and not rock hard. The chefs here, Lucio Miano Petta and Emanuele Tagliarina, adopted the same methods long tested in Naples. A proper brick, wood-fired oven was built on the premises, and care and attention put into the pizza dough and the toppings used.
There was a short wine list ranging in price from £15.50 to £21.95, with labels including Cantine Menhir Quota Primitivo from Puglia at £19.95 for a bottle that retails at about £14. Caponata is a Sicilian vegetable stew with aubergine, celery, olives and pine nuts served with bread, and was pronounced excellent by my well travelled dining companion, who knows Naples well. A side salad of rocket, cherry tomatoes and Parmesan was also good, with a well balanced dressing (13/20)
We tried two pizzas, the special of the day (£9.95) featuring roasted red and yellow peppers, free range rare breed sausage, smoked mozzarella and Fior di Latte (made from fresh cow’s milk rather than water buffalo milk) mozzarella. The other was Santa Caterina (£8.95), whose toppings were mozzarella, tomato sauce, Naples salami, chilli and Parmesan. Both were excellent, the base soft and pliable, the toppings generous. The oven here reaches 450C according to the member of staff that I spoke to. According to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletano, a pizza guild based in Naples that sets down rules for what constitutes an authentic Naples pizza, the ideal temperature should be 485C, but various accredited pizzerias have ovens that are a little less (or occassionally a little more) than this target. Whatever the specifics of the resting time of the dough and the breed of tomatoes used, the result here is a very fine pizza (13/20).
The bill came to £27 each including wine. Santa Maria was a pioneering pizzeria in London, and seven years on continues to operate at a high standard. There are other excellent pizzas to be found in London now, such as at neaby l’Oro di Napoli, but the version here remains a benchmark Neopolitan pizza.
Further reviews: 29th Aug 2010