Every week in London, there’s a new backdrop for your doomed Tinder dates. And while it’s usually something eccentric like a fish finger pop-up or a raccoon burger that captures the imagination, now it’s the turn of a Neapolitan pizza place.
Last month a London branch of of L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele opened – said to provide the best ‘za in the world. They’ve been making it so well for 150 years, there’s even a two-minute scene in Eat, Pray, Love devoted to Julia Roberts eating some, losing her mind, and rediscovering a love for pizza, herself and the world. But speaking as a guy who both eats his fair share of pizza and doesn’t trust Julia Roberts, I just don’t buy it. So, eager to find out what makes it so special, I head over to Stoke Newington.
And what do I see? A ten-person queue stretching onto the street. Shuffling through the masses, I ask the maître d how long the wait is for a table. “An hour and a half,” she replies indignantly. I decide to join the takeaway queue, but there are a few good boozers in the area (eg Jolly Butchers) where you can ruin yourself while you wait.
While Pizza Hut is probably wheeling out a new nougat and jalapeño range, this place serves two options: margherita (£9) and marinara (£7). Fearful of having my head taken off by other dough-cravers behind me, I quickly yell “Pizza Margherita!” and grab the ticket. I’m sent to wait outside. Stood awkwardly in the street, I feel more like I’m anticipating a 5am WhatsApp call from a guy named “Crazy Jed” than pizza.
Twenty-five minutes later, I snatch it and rush into a nearby pub, furious. What levels of deliciousness does a pizza need to justify treating customers like selfie-hunting super fans? Wafting aside empty glasses, I chuck the box onto a busy bar. Underneath, a red and white oil spill stares back at me, unsliced. I tear off a bit.
Holy f*ck. The sweet, chewy dough melting, the subtle sourness of tomato… each bite is better than the last. It looks hilariously minimalist, but has tastes usually smothered by cheese’s greasy paws. All hail the crunchy bubbles of fun that spread across this landscape.
In a world of growing extremes and division, this pizza has the power to make us appreciate the beauty in simplicity once more: the smell of the north circular, the way an old lady tells you to “f*ck off” under her breath. Yes, the prophecies are true: L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele will have you falling in love with pizza, the world and Julia Roberts all over again.