Straight outta Napoli: Pizzeria di Camden

Written by: Sophie Taylor

We love Camden! It’s so different to anywhere else

The freshest of dough, massaged tomatoes and a wood fire oven full of love. It’s Camden’s newest Pizzeria straight outta Napoli. We were lucky enough to get a taste of what this authentic Italian restaurant has to offer. And it was gooood.

The brains and hearts beating behind it all are Sanaa Ahmed and Jose Pacheco, possessing a very healthy obsession with all things pizza. Using only the freshest of responsibly sourced ingredients, the team create the highest calibre of pizza pairing natural products with 200 year old Neapolitan tradition and techniques.

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We spoke to Sanaa about and massaging tomatoes, tiramisu recipes and 22 year old master pizziolos.

How do you find the location?

“We love Camden! We’ve lived here since 2008. We love the energy, it’s pretty full on. It’s different to anywhere else in London.

And in some ways has lots of elements of London in one place

“Yes. It’s positive here, we’re looking forwards not back. Camden doesn’t need to live up to the negative stereotype it might have. A lot of tourists might come here but that’s because it has something different and they are bringing money to the community. It’s a good thing!”

We start to admire the wall fixtures and signage.

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Who made the design decisions?

“That’s Jose and myself. With Isobel, too, Jose’s sister. We wanted something very simple and not too provocative because we want to integrate and blend in to the surrounding Camden Town.” 

The focus is on the food!

“Of course!”

Admiring their beautiful signage like us? That’s all down to our very own talentful designer and letterer, Josh Harriss, aka The A Board Dude  who hand-painted their fascia and menu boards. Snazz. 

Cristiano has been making pizza since he was four years old.
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Suddenly a bearded young fellow wearing a personalised tee shirt appears to emerge from the wood fire oven in a basil infused haze. It’s award winning pizza champion, Cristiano de Rinaldi.

So how did you meet Cristiano?

“It was in Naples. Jose was doing a course called Vesuvius which is where you learn how to make the best pizza of Naples. Cristiano was his teacher, he is a master pizziolo. Then we brought him back with us!”

You convinced him to move to London?

“Exactly! He said yeah, why not! He’s only 22. He has been making pizza since he was four years old. We are a very young team and we’re like a family. Jose is the only one not here right now because he was up early making the dough and has a job. That is what keeps our pizza healthy, using freshly made dough that we would never refrigerate, made with Caputo ‘00’ flour.”

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You obviously place a huge emphasis on your ingredients

“The produce we use is very important. We want to show people that you can get great food for cheap. Pizza is like a synonym for fast food but it’s actually not, you should take your time with it. We use all the best ingredients in our pizza. For example we only use tomato san marzano which is the best tomato to use. It’s very fragile, it comes from Campania in Italy. You have to massage the tomato before using it on the pizza because you can completely ruin the whole of the pizza otherwise. The tomato sauce is very important. It’s so sweet, it’s lovely.”

Sanna promptly jumps up and brings over a plate of Marinara pizza for us to try

Cue noises of delight

“This is the the classic Marinara pizza that the people of Naples will always order. Either this or the margherita. You can have it with anchovies, but the Neapolitan way is with tomato, oregano and garlic. That’s it.”

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More noises of delight.

The marinara is an immediate hit with us. This is an above average slice, brimming with freshness. 

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” Yes, our photgrapher Mike finds time to quote Steve Jobs while stuffing his face with garlic. “If Apple made pizzas!” he continues.

He’s on fire! And he’s not wrong. The dough is perfect. Not the default burnt like a crispy match and certainly not too thick like those donut-esque pizzas you wolf down on a hangover. No, you can tell the ingredients are high quality and inordinate amounts of love and devotion have gone in to this recipe. What’s more, we didn’t feel bloated afterwards as we usually would after a carb binge.

It’s good for people to learn about the food they’re buying and consuming.
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What do you normally have for lunch?

“Well I try every pizza throughout the day all the time. Then for dinner, the best for me is the queen Margherita made with the buffalo di mozarella. The tomato is really important like I said, but the mozzarella is equally as important. You have two types of mozarella: the fior di latte which is the fresh mozzarella from the cow. All the mozzarella you see in the markets and shops is from the cow yes, but it is not fresh. You then have the buffalo di mozzarella, coming from the buffalo of course. So for me the best is the original buffalo mozzarella because it is always fresh and can be eaten on it’s own. Italian people prefer mozzarella with nothing. No olive oil, nothing. It is really beautiful. Usually people ask what the difference is and that is great. It’s good for people to learn about the food they’re buying and consuming. They’re going to look at their cheese at the shop and think, ah! But this isn’t the fresh one. Perhaps I’ll keep looking and find some fresh fior di latte.”

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Don’t count your hours and don’t think you’re going to be rich.

You try to keep it local don’t you?

“Yes, and we keep our prices very cheap so that more people can enjoy our food. For the quality of the food it is very cheap here and affordable.”

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start up their own restaurant?

“Oh wow. I would say a lot of passion, a lot of love for the food and what you do. Don’t count your hours and don’t think you’re going to be rich. You will be here all the time, working more than 16 hours a day for the love of it. You’ll work for you though which is fantastic.”

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Thank you so much for inviting us Sanaa and letting us eat your massaged tomatoes. We returned to the office with a whole aubergine pizza for everyone that took a lot of will power not to inhale on the way. Pizzeria di Camden offer gluten free options on all of their pizzas too so don’t you go feeling left out. Unlike our gluten free editor who, once realising the pizza we’d come back with was made with normal flour, tipped her desk. Sorry Claire. We’ll definitely be going back, if not just to try their Amaretto and chocolate tiramisu. Be still my coagulating heart.

Pizzeria di Camden are open Tuesday – Saturday 12noon – 3pm & 5 – 10:30pm, Sunday 5pm – 10:30pm

Go on, have a look at their menu here.

Photos by Mike Barry

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