I take great pride in calling myself a pizza connoisseur. Not a mere dilettante, I have been on a pizza journey for what feels like my whole life. I have learned to appreciate all kinds of pizza variations: pizza a taglio, pizza al metro, personal sized pizzas, Neapolitan pizza, New York pizza pies, and so on. I’ve tried pizza with all kinds of toppings, from your basic Margherita, to sausage and fennel, or potatoes, or egg or, yes (Italians, close your eyes): the controversial Hawaiian pizza.
And so, along the journey, I’d like to think I’ve refined my palate- which is perhaps why I’ve become so selective about where I choose to eat pizza. In London alone, I have tried far more establishments than I care to remember… but I keep coming back to “Made in Italy”, the Northcote Road, Clapham Junction branch. (I specify the branch because I have actually eaten at other Made In Italy restaurants and found the experience can be quite different.)
Admittedly, I come here for more than the food. Walking into an Italian restaurant where you are a local, known by name and can speak to the staff in Italian creates a sensation of coming home – and as someone who lives away from home, that in it of itself is priceless for me. Besides, who doesn’t want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came? But that experience extends to others besides me: the staff take the time to build relationships with the regulars in a way that is quintessentially Italian and that in it of itself takes me back to the motherland.
The welcoming Italian atmosphere extends beyond the warm staff. The decor of the restaurant has a cozy, home-like feel with simple wooden tables and warm, soft lighting; the heat that radiates from the brick oven in the back is a nice welcome from the wintry conditions outside; the music is almost always Italian popular music like you’d hear there on the radio, or might have grown up hearing. On weekends they have live music (Italian or English, depending on the night) which really does help to create a great dining experience.
But let’s get to the point: you come to Made in Italy for the food, and that food is pretty special. They make great cocktails (a lovely Aperol spritz), coffee that is Italian approved, and their appetiser boards (including bruschetta with truffle oil!) and burrata starters (their mozzarella and burrata is freshly made by their team daily) are mouthwatering. And yes, there are some pasta dishes there too… but you come here for the pizza – and it does not disappoint! That beautiful pizza pictured above is their BO.CA pizza: one of their ‘special ones’ – which I have without mortadella. The rest of this incredible pizza is mozzarella, stracciatella di burrata, sun-blushed tomatoes and the pistachio crumbs. It is a pizza lover’s dream! And I’m sure you’re wondering about the base: the sourdough is chewy and flavourful, and too good to leave behind.
I’ve tried at least half their pizza menu, including the Margherita, Salsicca e Friarelle, and the Ortolana, pictured above. They are always delicious – but given my discerning palate, I can always tell when their star pizza chef Sergio is in the kitchen, and it’s always that next level amazing (in my experience Sergio works the evening shift so I tend to go for dinner rather than lunch, from 6pm onwards).
And yes, I have tried some other pretty good pizzas in London: I’ve been to a couple of Pizza Pilgrims locations and while it’s good, the atmosphere always felt like I’ve walked into a caricature experience of what it’s supposed to mean to be Italian, with the obvious and unimaginative references to vespas and Sofia Loren. Franco Manca was a brief competitor when it first opened, but its menu is too limited and the quality started taking a nosedive after six months (and I don’t enjoy eating in establishments that feel like a school cafeteria). There too many others to list, but when it comes down to it, I remain convinced that Made In Italy is still London’s best Neapolitan style pizza. For food, atmosphere, value (with a margherita pizza and tap water you could dine out for 7 pounds – where else in London can you do that!?), service and overall experience, it just can’t be beat.
A final note: their desserts are pretty good, but the one that stands out is their Nutella and ricotta ring. Pizza dough in the shape of a ring that has been stuffed with Nutella and ricotta, served warm with a scoop of ice cream on top. This is amazing but I find that I either come for pizza, or for this and a coffee (ideally to share); it’s simply too filling to order both.
*Calories: I’ve estimated a Margherita at 650; the BO.CA without mortadella in the first photo is estimated to be 1,023.
Food taste: 4 / 5 (pizza heaven, only beaten by pizza in Naples itself)
Food/table presentation: 4 / 5 (simple table dressings, but pizza stands for itself)
Service: 4 / 5 (friendly and speedy)
Atmosphere/decor: 4 / 5 (cozy and not kitschy)
Value for money: 4 / 5 (reasonably priced and in line with/better than local competition)
Overall rating: 4 / 5