Pizzas just like Nonna used to make from Cinquecento

Cinquecento Pizzeria has three locations in London (one in Chelsea, another in Notting Hill Gate, and a third on Portobello Road), but it was in Franco Manca where it all began. Twelve years ago in the Brixton branch of the pizza chain, a couple of Italian chefs worked together – Carmelo Meli and Emanuele Tagliarina. Combining their talents, they decided to strike out on their own. The first Cinquecento opened a stone’s throw from Chelsea’s Sloane Square in late 2019, with the second restaurant joining the line up in Portobello Road the following year; the Notting Hill Gate spot completes the triumvirate.

London is fully loaded when it comes to pizzerias, but when you’re promised food “just like Nonna used to make”, you’ve got to sample the goods. Cinquecento Pizzeria’s raison d’être is to make the best Neapolitan pizza this side of Naples. Born in Naples, raised in London as their tag line goes. When Carmelo and Emanuele started making close to 1,000 pizzas per day a decade ago, they realised the appetite for Italy’s greatest export was just as hearty in London as it is back home in Napoli. So, when they branched out together they thought hard about what it would take to make them stand out from their competitors. Well, Nonna’s recipes are very effective secret weapons, but then that’s got to be supported with strong ammunition in the form of top quality ingredients brought in from Italy and a lengthy menu that’ll leave guests feeling indecisive and greedy for it all.

Speaking of Nonna, the interiors of Cinquecento Pizzeria have a distinctly Nonna-like vibe to them. Walls are split in two by an Aegean-blue skirting board and are adorned with fruit-patterned plates and dried flowers. The lighting is provided by vintage-looking chandeliers and an open-flame oven burning away on one side. With powder-blue tables lending to the intimacy, there’s something charming and nostalgic about the place.

Plus, Portobello Road now boasts a new dining room upstairs that seats 25 people and is available for private hire – perfect for those upcoming festive celebrations!

The food menu covers plenty of ground, with a range of different starters and appetisers available to order before the main event. Dishes range from buratta served with 24-month San Daniele ham and traditional aubergine parmigiana, to lighter options such as avocado bruschetta and Neapolitan broccoli topped with fennel sausage. Fried options include Montanara (fried pizza) and Frittantina (fired pasta). But it’s Nonna, again, that was winking away at me with the lure of her homemade meatballs. Salivating, I ordered them in a frenzy and did not regret my decision in the slightest when they arrived. They are deliciously well seasoned and come served in a gorgeously rich San Marzano DOP (Denomination Protected Origin) sauce and generous scrapings of parmesan. Perhaps slightly on the generous side (they’re not small) coming in as a trio, arrive hungry if you’re thinking about ordering these to kick things off.

Cinquencento is, of course, obviously best known for its Neapolitan-style pizzas and these are made from dough that’s been fermented for 48 hours. A range of different pizzas are available, including everything from classics such as a Margherita, to one which comes topped with fried aubergine and buratta. Tailor each choice with the option to add extra toppings for an additional price too if you like, so that your experience remains personalised and unique to you.

For the table, we ordered Jacqui’s – DOP tomato sauce, fresh spinach, black olives, wild capers, fiordilatte mozzarella, EVO (Extra Virgin Olive) oil. It’s a great choice for vegetarians and doesn’t lack in the flavour department at all. Meat lovers, let me recommend the Bosco if you begin to find your indecisiveness frustrating; trust me, this will happen. Rich DOP tomato sauce is layered with fiordilatte mozzarella, cured ham, wild mushroom and lashings of EVO oil. It’s simple, yet brilliant. The pizzas are fluffy and light, with those unmistakable charred-affect collars that are the sign of a decent sourdough. The crust is extraordinarily good. This is because Cinquecento ignites from the temperature of the Neapolitan oven used to produce the indulging flavours and textures of the Neapolitan pizza dough. This is left to rise for up to 48 hours to create that puffy texture and lightness for easy digestion.

From the laid back, friendly staff to the authentic Italian beers and wines, Cinquecento Pizzeria is so relaxed it just lets the food do all the talking. And if the food here could talk, it would have the best chat. Just like Nonna’s.

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