When Time Out named the humble Santa Maria 'Best Pizza Restaurant in London', I felt somewhat obliged to get down there, by any means possible, and try it for myself.
It's the kind of place where, on the kind of sunny day on which I visited, I sat in the small light filled room by the big french windows (in my red lipstick and Vivienne Westwood sweater) and it just felt like summer - and it just felt lovely. If there is even a scrap of sun before this summer breathes it's final feeble breath then you should really jump in your cars, tubes and buses and descend upon this place like a plague of pizza hungry locusts.
Santa Maria is a beautiful little place, a small labour of love created by Angelo and Pasquale who wanted to bring a taste of genuine Naples street food to Ealing. With no advance booking and a total of 16 indoor tables, this is not a place for a night out with a group of friends and is more suited for impromptu lunches and casual yet intimate dinners.
The decor is simple but perfect- white walls, wooden crate shelves and a quite enchanting photos, and all emblazoned with their Santa Maria logo designed by Italian graphic designer Salvatore Lillini. It is light, airy and well presented, somehow retaining the air of a local, 'best kept secret' - despite its recent acclaim.
The menu is small and classic, featuring a small selection of classic Neapolitan combinations (seven pizzas and a calzone to be precise) that would have Pizza Expresses mammoth menu blushing in shame. The ingredients are all flown in from Italy and the sources of their mozzarella, olive oil and Parmesan can all be found on their websites.
I've never been to Naples, but I have had Italian pizza, and this is it. The bases are super thin, the toppings are light but taste fresh, as if ten minutes ago, they were raw produce. Our pizza was a little heavy in mozzarella juice and tended to splash all over the plate, but to be honest though it may have made the base a little soggier, nothing was impaired and it made it a lot more fun to try and eat...
I haven't eaten at enough pizza restaurants in London to say if this is the best, but I can say it's good. I can also say my motivation to eat at many others has depleted somewhat.
LLF recommends splitting a pizza (Santa' Anna, with artichoke and black olives) and making room for their grilled mixed vegetables and a scoop of their gelato- I would go with the hazelnut gelato, with whole roasted hazelnuts stirred in.
Santa Maria Pizzeria, 15 St Mary's Road, W5 5RA
020 8579 1462