L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele is arguably the most famous pizza restaurant in the world. They have been making pizzas in Naples, Italy, for over a century where they’ve built up quite a cult following. This transitioned to worldwide renown when the book and then the film, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, passionately extoled the virtues of their pizzas. On the third of February, they opened a branch in London. I knew none of this until recently, when I walked past a tiny pizzeria on my way to meet a friend, it had a ginormous queue worthy of Moses coming out its door. A sucker for following the herd, I just knew I’d have to find out what all the fuss was about. Thus having a day to myself, this Tuesday, I turned up fifteen minutes before opening time and was relieved to find myself joining a smallish queue, which looked likely to see me through the door for the first sitting.
The queuing experience was definitely part of the fun! A wry delivery boy walked past us all and quietly noted aloud, ‘I see the novelty hasn’t worn off yet’. Next a man walked by, who suddenly couldn’t take it anymore, he walked back turned to face the queue and loudly exclaimed, ‘It’s just pizza, you know!’ He repeated this several times but in typical London fashion everyone suddenly struck a pose that instantly conveys that their mind is wholly vacant and suggests you should kindly refrain from attempting a conversation. In any case after ten minutes of waiting I was through the door and ready for some deliciousness. Ordering was super easy, as the menu only has two items!!! A Margherita and a Marinara, both reasonably priced. I had the former and in no time at all was experiencing something rather spectacular. The base is wonderful with the teeniest hint of crispness around its soft doughy centre. The sauce is intensely flavoursome and delivers an explosive burst of tomato goodness. Lastly the cheese for me was the best bit, mozzarella of the highest calibre that was a pure delight. I’ve never had cheese on a pizza in London that was this good before. A simple formula and an uncomplicated taste, the Margherita here is truly perfect in its execution. I can honestly say that this is the best pizza I’ve ever had.
Yet, you might be surprised to learn that I’m reluctant to proclaim that you instantly come and visit. Fantastic food at a reasonable price, what’s not to like? For a start the queue, after I arrived it took a lot longer to get in, closer to twenty five minutes and I imagine on a weekend this would be even worse. Next while the pizza is the most amazing I’ve ever had, the step up in quality while significant is not a mind blowing spiritual odyssey, in the words of a wise man who walked by, ‘it’s just pizza’. Finally, I can imagine some people will find the limited menu a huge disappointment. In my case this wasn’t an issue as Margheritas are my favourite. Despite these caveats, please don’t be put off if it sounds like your sort of place. I must say that I loved this restaurant and will definitely be going back again. Here’s hoping the hype dies down a little.