Oxford is home to many amazing restaurants and pubs for pizzas. And to celebrate this wonderful cuisine on its national day, Daily Info have brought together a list of the best in Oxford (and two great ones worth travelling for) to help guide you to make the right choice for this most fabulous of Italian cuisine.
Just down the road from the greenery of Port Meadow, and a one minute walk away from the Phoenix Picturehouse, sits the relaxed and friendly Mamma Mia Pizzeria. Serving authentic thin-crust pizza, with a focus on high-quality ingredients, they make fresh bases every day (using imported Neapolitan ‘00’ flour!) top them with home-made tomato sauce, generous amounts of mozzarella, and an almost dauntingly large range of toppings. And they offer a tasty gluten-free base! Fancy your pizza to go? Mamma Mia offer a telephone service for collection, and home delivery through Deliveroo.
Who said comfort food couldn't be stylish? As well as upmarket bistro fare, Jericho brasserie Branca also has a small range of stone-baked pizzas on offer. It's a case of quality rather than quantity: vegetarians and vegans, for whom pizza menus are so often underwhelming, are well-catered for - think roasted vegetables, tenderstem broccoli, artichoke, and lovage and pine nut pesto. Carnivores won't do too badly either (the n'duja number is a winner), and a half-and-half option is helpfully put forward to alleviate selection headaches. And if parquet floors, warm lighting, and minimalist modern décor really rile you, all pizzas are 25% off when taken away, so you can just fold them into your face within the dank confines of your gloomy abode.
They don't do pretensions down at Mario's. Canned Italian music serenades customers and the walls are lined with old Serie A scarves and tatty prints of Maldini and Michelangelo. The menu has plenty of choice and the restaurant is complete with what is surely a must for any self-respecting pizzeria: an open cooking area, so you can watch some bloke working the dough before caressing it into the oven with one of those long-handled pizza paddles. When it arrives, piping hot, the pizza is excellent - thin base, juicy toppings and a fluffy crust. It's a pizza to be chewed open-mouthed while loudly joshing with tablemates or inhaled silently, with just a crisp Birra Moretti for company. If you thought nobody would want a pizza at 6pm on a weeknight, you'd be mistaken - book before or go without.
Offering something a bit different, BBuona, as it is known by regulars, prides itself on its sourdough 'pinsas': crispy bases which are more elongated than the traditional shape, piled high with silky tomato sauce and a pleasing variety of creative toppings. Even better, they offer the option for 'half and half' for the indecisive (and even if you're not indecisive, the breadth of the menu makes it tempting to try as many as you can!). They do simple very well, with a bold buffalo mozzarella adorning a plain Margherita. But a more complex vegan option, replacing cheese with artichoke cream, also tasted fabulous.
Slap bang in the middle of Wallingford is the charming Old Post Office, which among its delicacies serves wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas. You can pick from a range of toppings (my personal favourite is the Bolognese), build your own or turn your pizza into a calzone. The base ingredients are sourced from Naples and are paired with a light crust (thanks to 48 hours of proving) and smokey flavour to produce one of the best pizzas in Oxfordshire. You can even have your pizza to go, with the restaurant doing takeout. So you have almost no excuse not to check them out.
This family-run Italian delicatessen on Cowley Road offers a range of great pizzas for takeaway and delivery. Their fresh hand-made bases are fantastic, and the toppings range from traditional Margheritas and Firenzes to the more unexpected Giovane ('tomato, mozzarella, deep fried chips & frankfurter'). Ordering online can be a little dangerous; Il Principe has a comprehensive menu of pasta, starters and mains, so it's all too easy to throw in a teeny extra order of calamari, tiramisu, or chicken stuffed with smoked scamorza cheese & spinach in a wine sauce. Ordering in person is almost as risky, as their deli counter is also irresistible.
When in Banbury it’s worth finding your way to Pizza Calzone. An unassuming exterior gives way to exceptional food thanks to an extensive menu (including pasta, risotto and Italian meats). But it’s really their pizza that distinguishes them. Highlights include the Quattro Formaggi and the Contandina (which pairs pepperoni with mushrooms, plus a sprinkling of artichoke hearts). It’s no wonder that the restaurant has the reputation of authenticity and has won a number of awards.
Offering authentic Italian food on St Clements, La Cucina has become a gem in the culinary landscape of East Oxford. And their pizza is particularly exceptional, with their menu split between pizze della cucina (with tomato sauce) and pizze bianche (without it) to cater to all tastes. With a scrumptiously thin base and packed with flavour, a La Cucina pizza is a filling treat. The restaurant also has dedicated gluten free and vegan menus (including gluten free pizzas), so they can cater to the needs of most diners. Oh and they too are on Deliveroo.
The ever-fabulous Dodo Pub chain makes The Rusty Bicycle their East Oxford home. Nestled along Magdalen Road opposite the Magic Café, they are a friendly and popular locale with some deliciously (and somewhat sloppy) Neapolitan pizzas. They keep their dough simple and let their toppings do the talking, with some delicious pairings. I particularly like Salami Get This Straight, combing Cotswold cured salami and roast sweet peppers. They’re also a worthy lunch destination for those in the area, offering five pound pizzas Tuesday to Friday lunchtimes. And they’re on Deliveroo, so you can get their doughy deliciousness from the comfort of your home.
When I first heard about a certain notorious 'cheap and cheerful' pizza chain opening up just around the corner, I somewhat self-righteously vowed never to go there, and instead support the independent offerings of the White Rabbit whenever I could. I needn't have worried: clearly, the quality and authenticity of the goods on offer here, plus the fact that they offer a gluten free option that has been highly praised by coeliacs across the land, has allowed them to withstand the might of the Goliath franchise. Dive down the rabbit hole with the magnificent Mad Hatter Calzone, where you can tell the chefs your preferences and then leave it to them, for a culinary surprise. Other options I have enjoyed (having visited a number of times that'd probably be deemed medically inadvisable) include the Italiana (a veritable feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds), the Vegana (available with or without vegan cheese) and the Spagnola (chorizo, peppers, onions and paprika).