I do travel for a good pizza. Mainly, I travel to Napoli. Every time I go home, it is tradition that once picked up from the airport, regardless of the time of night, I am taken to a pizzeria for a welcome dinner.
Here in London, I do not go for pizza as often as I’d like – there have been some decent pizzerias in town where I have enjoyed fairly authentic fare in the past; these are mostly within what is considered ‘central London’ boundaries.
So how far would I travel to try a pizza? In the company of some fellow Twitterers and bloggers, I made my way by tube (ouch!) to Ealing Broadway on a rainy December evening.
The owner of Pizzeria Santa Maria, had invited us to try his pizzas, and I thought it was a bold move given that two Neapolitans were in the group. As soon as we arrived (it is 10 minutes walk from the station) we were warmly welcomed by Pasquale ‘Packi’ Chionchio and the rest of the team.
The place is tiny, with only 20 covers or so in the front room and a few more in a back room. The warm glow of the wood fire over, the typical set up (olive oil beaker, glass fronted pizza making area, chopped ingredients) and mostly, a gorgeous smell of freshly baked pizza gave a very positive first impression.
The menu has a good selection of pizza and options to customise (extra ingredients such as fried aubergines and provola are available), a few starters and a few desserts. It is clear that one comes here for pizza, and pizza alone. They offer a good selection of wines (although I did not even have to ask, Packi rightly assumed that I would have a beer).
We made our choices and while we snapped away at the venue and the food, our pizzas started to arrive.
I opted for a simple Margherita con Provola, as I hardly ever get to eat provola (smoked mozzarella) in London. The pizza looked the part… uneven, risen and chunky edge (cornicione), charred at points, with soft, thin middle, full of provola and fresh basil.
I tucked in, eating with my hands and lifting those slices of goodness dripping on the plate. @Gi_Nav, my fellow Neapolitan, enjoyed her Bufalina with melanzane just the same. I think we did not need to speak – we just looked at each other thinking ‘this is the real thing’.
After the pizza, we even had room for dessert – we tried some home made Tiramisu’ (which was great, my only criticism is that I would add another layer of savoiardi to counterbalance the creamy layer).
The others had some ice cream (from Italian ice cream shop Oddono’s) and then we were served a freshly sliced whole panettone (some of which I duly took home to @bmcboy).
Finally, coffee. Like in my family home, Santa Maria uses Kimbo Caffe’. Of course – it does not get more authentic than this. I do not drink coffee in the evening but the smell, the aroma and the crema looked perfect.
We left happy and full – all in agreement that Packi’s hospitality made the evening as much as the food. The many locals coming for take-aways and late meals were all greeted by name and plenty of smiles, a proof of his good work. He is full of passion for the ingredients they use and the quality of what they produce; he’s also proud of what he has created, a tiny space out of the main foodie circuits and the hustle and bustle of the West End which gets people queuing to get a table. The pizzas are extremely good and at a price of £6.50 for a Margherita, a fab deal.
We asked him if he would ever open a pizzeria in Italy. He said no. What he does, it is what is normal, almost average, in Napoli – and that is exactly what makes it so special over here.
15 St.Mary’s Road
London W5 5RA
T. +44 (0) 208 5791462
No bookings taken
Pizzas from £4.95