The results of our pizza poll are in! We asked our readers where their favourite local pizza place was and twitter exploded with impassioned responses from local pizza-pan fans who couldn’t stop raving about Peckham’s Gowlett, Streatham’s Bravi Ragazzi and Brixton Village’s Franco Manca. The people have spoken, and so in the name of quality journalism we loosened our waistbands and put the top three to the test.
62 Gowlett Rd
020 7635 7048
A loyal legion of twitter fans eagerly cried the praise of the Gowlett SE15 (formerly the Gowlett Arms) with @thejwalks claiming “Gowlett pizza is probably the best in London”. @hanaarshere weighed in to say “Franco Manca is overrated, the Gowlett is where it’s at for pizzas, south of the river” while @PeckhamAllStars took it one step further, describing it as “hands down best pizza outta Napoli”.
So where did these world class pizzas rise from? “I got really drunk one night and bought a stone-bake pizza oven on eBay,” landlord Jonny Henfrey laughs. Prior to that Jonny, who has been running the business for ten years, had been a one-man Sunday roast production line, turning out roast dinners in just a domestic oven. As the weekend trade got busier they got to a point where they had to turn people away, which is why he came up with the idea of making pizzas. What followed was extensive research and hitting up Italian chefs for advice (one tip included hanging the dough in a pair of stockings overnight). “It all seemed like a bit much so in the end I just went back to an old bread recipe that I had and after a few test rounds we found we were onto a winner,” he laments.
The house speciality the Gowlettini (£8.50) features all fresh ingredients including prosciutto that the landlord cures himself under his ‘Smoked in Peckham’ company. Goat’s cheese, tomato, pine nuts, prosciutto and rocket are generously layered onto a super thin, crispy crust, resulting in pizza perfection. The American Hot (£8) transports you to New York, combining spicy pepperoni and jalapenos with tomato and mozzarella cheese in an ultimate booze accompaniment. Throw in great music, a cool laidback vibe and friendly staff and you’re cooking with gas.
Unit 4, Market Row
020 7738 3021
Franco Manca has built up a loyal following since opening in Brixton Market in 2008. The queue that inevitably forms outside the restaurant every evening is testament to its reputation as one of the London’s best pizzas (as with most trendy London eateries these days, they don’t take reservations).
With its sparse décor, hard wooden benches and brisk, efficient service, the pizzas are the deservedly the star of the show. There are only six on the menu (plus two daily specials chalked up on a board outside the joint) – the focus is on quality, not quantity.
The sourdough base, specially developed by the restaurant’s founders, is cooked in a brick oven at a searing 500°C for 40 seconds. The result is a slightly charred and chewy pizza with a distinctively moreish, slightly sour taste, with a choice of toppings including creamy mozzarella and organic pecorino from Somerset, and organic cured chorizo from Brindisa.
With a high table turnover, Franco Manca is not a place to linger, but for a slice of pure pizza heaven, at incredibly reasonable prices (all pizzas are under £7), it should not be missed.
(NB: Franco Manca closes at 5pm, Sunday-Wednesday, and at 10pm, Thur-Sat)
2a Sunnyhill Road
020 8769 4966
Bravi Ragazzi is a neighbourhood trattoria straight out of Naples. Unassuming from the outside, the reputation of their wood-fired pizzas ensures that the place is kept consistently busy in the evenings.
The restaurant is small, with six or seven tables. The décor is simple and modern, with a touch of rustic Italy- an exposed brick wall runs the length of the back of the restaurant, and the wood fire oven blazes behind the counter.
Our feast began with a tasty Caprese salad- buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil, served with warm crusty bread- followed by huge pizzas, placed in front of us within seconds of being taken out of the oven. The pizza base was chewy and light, and almost melted in the mouth. For dessert we had the tiramisu, on the restaurant’s recommendation. The vanilla creamy topping and light-as-air sponge ensured that we polished off nearly the whole thing, despite being absolutely stuffed…
The wood-fired pizza at Bravi Ragazzi is worth the journey to Streatham. It’s the perfect spot for an Italian feast- and with pizzas around the £8.50 mark, a very reasonably priced feast at that.