The operators of a London pizza chain that just marked a decade in business by opening a new site within a luxury car showroom say they are still driven by a desire to serve the most authentic Neopolitan pizza available using equipment handpicked themselves.
Pasquale Chionchio and Angelo Ambrosio, founders of Santa Maria Pizzeria, opened their first store in Ealing in 2010.
Over the years they have expanded the business to several sites, including their most ambitious site yet in the heart of West London classic car showroom Duke of London.
Mr Chionchio said the growth has been slow but organic. “We don’t have major investors, we don’t have funds or loans. It’s all our funds in the company – me and Angelo. We still work from the micro to the macro management. We still check the product on a daily basis, making sure things are run the way we want, so it’s still a family business.
“Ours may not be the fanciest place, but what we always wanted was to make sure we had the best ingredients, the best chefs in the game, the best ovens – every single detail. People say, ‘I can make pizza at home with my kids.’ And, of course, you can. But what we make is something premium, something that’s the best. All the small details create the best pizza.”
The attention to detail extends right the way to catering equipment specification, including the workhorse of its kitchens – wood-fired ovens handmade by an artisan supplier from Naples.
“Every time [we need one], he ships a couple of pallets of materials in – sand from Vesuvius, the volcano, and handmade bricks, everything. He ships everything over, flies over himself and, over two weeks, builds the oven brick-by-brick. Then he flies back to Naples. It’s something we are very attached to. It’s a piece of art. It matches our philosophy with the pizza.
“For us, the best compliment is when a Neapolitan says, ‘you make me feel at home. I close my eyes and I feel at home.’ That was our goal.”
Duke of London is one of the capital’s coolest and quirkiest destinations for classic cars and supercars. Based in a 51,000 square foot warehouse space, it offers sales, restoration, storage, events and detailing.
With government lockdown restrictions within the food and drink sector eased, the restaurant’s plan is to open its doors for guests to dine in the 30-seat restaurant overlooking the classic car showroom from Monday to Saturday, from 4pm to 10pm, and Sunday from midday to 10pm.
A selection of cars currently in the showroom for customers to admire from their dining table include a Jaguar E-Type, Ferrari Dino and McLaren 720S.