What Is The Perfect Pizza Topping? London's Pizzaiolos Decide
Food is endlessly political, so you shouldn’t be surprised to know that your favourite pizza topping can make or break even the strongest of friendships. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve had to cut out a number of toxic people from my life after finding out they like to dot their pizzas with chicken and bacon. I’m sure that you understand where I’m coming from, and I hope that we can all agree that a pizza slathered in barbecue sauce would cause similar offence.
But what’s the best pizza topping out there? What’s the ingredient that can take a plain pie – or even the perfect margherita – and elevate into a whole new stratosphere of flavour? Is it those tiny ‘roni cups that fill up with blindingly hot and delicious meat oil? Maybe it’s a ball of burrata that adds an almost-illicit layer of creaminess to your slice? To get to the wood-fired bottom of this, I sought out some of London’s top pizzaiolos and got them to tell me about what ingredient they believe is the very best pizza topping. Here’s what they had to say:
Nick Buckland, Co-Founder And Chef At Yard Sale Pizza
"It’s gotta be pepperoni – nothing beats it! It’s crispy. It’s spicy. It’s smoky. It cups up to form delicious pools of orange oil…and best of all it’s not even Italian – it was invented specifically for pizza! How can you ever go wrong with that?"
Jesse Elias - Owner Of Gordos Pizzeria
"Having a diet consisting of pizza and alcohol, I’m not the epitome of health… but I do know what makes a good pizza. Hands down for me you’ve got to keep it simple – marinara with anchovies and a sprinkling of chilli flakes. It’s so bloody simple, those salty anchovies against the sweet tomato then the chilli flakes coming in with that heat balancing it all out *chef kiss hand motion*. For me that is the perfect pizza, it’s light enough to sink a slice in-between service or as a post-service snack. Don’t get me wrong, though, I’ll still kill a Domino's after a heavy night."
Claudio Vescovo - Co-Founder Of Zia Lucia
"I’m fairly democratic when it comes to toppings, as long as they are fresh and genuine. I love traditional toppings, the evergreens, but I also love to be inventive. Toppings are at their best when paired with the right dough. Our black dough pizza, for example, is great with cheese, so my favourite topping for that would be gorgonzola – the base is crispy so the gorgonzola melts into the cracks of the crust and makes it fab for the senses. Wholemeal pizza also pairs amazingly with vegetables like succulent roasted aubergines and peppers."
Thom And James Elliot - Co-Founders Of Pizza Pilgrims
"‘Nduja is still the greatest pizza topping ingredient going. We first discovered it in 2011 on our very original pizza pilgrimage through Italy – it was actually one of our first stops in the Calabrian town of Spilinga where ‘nduja is produced. It is just a perfect blend of Calabrian chilli and fatty pork cheek/belly – and when it cooks on pizza the spicy oil oozes out while the meat caramelises on top. Just impossible to beat!"
Silvestro Morlando - Founder Of Sud Italia
"I love Buffalo mozzarella like toppings, but ever since I created an October special for Halloween four years ago, I’ve been in love with pumpkin. Taste is very subjective but this topping makes my pizza unique and different – it’s not very common to see pumpkin on a pizza. Our zucca pizza is really popular now and people are in love with how the combination of the Bleu d'Auvergne balances against the sweet flavor of the pumpkin, the mozzarella, fresh basil, and our pecorino sardo D.O.P. cheese. The only toppings that don’t belong on a pizza are chicken and pineapple. This is an appeal to all the pizza makes out there: NO CHICKEN AND PINEAPPLE ON THE PIZZA."
Ed Sandeman - Co-Founder Of Made Of Dough
"Chorizo is my favourite pizza topping. When you marry up chorizo with wood fire you get results. Ours is imported by Brindisa and is halfway between a cured and cooking style sausage, made with meat from the shoulder, belly and jaw. Just the right fat content to survive a 450°c wood fired oven. We slice it slightly thicker so it holds its own – the high heat roasts it fast and the flames lick the outside caramelising it, it’s crispy and soft at the same time. The oils are released into the tomato sauce giving it richness; bang, complete bliss."