I had lunch with Sean this week at Saponara, just a stone’s throw from where I live. In fact it’s so close I can see it from my living room window. I like Saponara so much, I’ve been meaning to take some pictures and write a blog post for the last two years, but the weatherman (on my lunching outside days) has conspired against me! As you can see above, the restaurant has seating for at least 20 people outside on a sunny day. It’s a quiet street and easy to believe that that one has been transported to Italy for a moment or two…

saponara interior

Saponara is a fantastic delicatessen and pizzeria in the heart of Islington, but off the beaten track, which makes it a hidden treasure. This hasn’t, however, stopped it being voted Best Pizza in London by Time Out. The business was set up by the Saponara brothers (from a small Basilicata village in the South of Italy) in 1989. Everyone working here is Italian, so I assume they are all part of the family. The deli fridges contain the most astonishing array or stuffed tomatoes, Italian cheeses and I have never seen so many types of cured meat. The interior, reminds me of a classic 1950s bar/restaurant in Italy.

pizza menu

We ordered from the pizza menu (above), but the restaurant also makes its own pasta – they are always keen to show customers a little basket of the various types to aid their choice. I find it hard to get past the first pizza on the page and I have to confess that I crave it!

piccante pizza

I had the usual today – piccante pizza, made with tomato, mozzarella, nduja, salame piccante, olives and salciccia piccante on a stone baked base.


The pizza base is light and slightly crispy. There’s no skimping on the quality and quantity of the charcuterie and the nduja oozes umami. Nduja is spicy pork spreading sausage, flavoured with chilli, that comes from Calabria. It is said to be loosely based on French andouille, introduced to the region in the 13th Century by the Angevin, French Capetian rulers from Anjou. Nduja has some similarity in texture and use to Spanish Sobrassada, but tastes quite different (more on Sobrassada in a future post).

chilli oil

In spite of my pizza being piccante, I couldn’t resist a drizzle of hot chilli oil on top.

margherita pizza

Sean ordered a margherita pizza – tomato, mozzarella and oregano, decorated with basil leaves on top. Legend has it that the margherita was invented by Raffaele Esposito (1890) in honour of the Queen of Italy (Margherita of Savoy) and the toppings represent the colours of the Italian flag. However, this is probably untrue, since pizza with the same toppings existed in Naples 100 years before that date. It is also said that the mozzarella was sliced thin and arranged on top of the tomato in a flower shape and along with the basil it resembled a daisy (Margherita in Italian). Regardless of the history, Sean ate his pizza in about 10 minutes, it was so good!

Complimenting the aromas coming from our own pizzas, there was a delicious smell of truffle wafting towards us from a table close by.

san pelligrino

We drank San Pelligrino with our lunch, but be reassured that Saponara has a fantastic wine cellar with the house red and white starting at £12.95 a bottle.


These pizza’s are a complete meal in themselves, there’s no need for pudding, not even when it’s a greedy person like me. The most I could manage was a tiny amaretti biscuit with my cappuccino.

I can’t help feeling extremely content for several hours after eating the piccante pizza and when ordering a takeaway in the evening, I’ve noticed that there’s a fantastic happy atmosphere throughout the packed restaurant when I go to pick it up. In my opinion, this is definitely the best pizza in London – don’t tell anyone!

Saponara is at: 23 Prebend Street, Islington, N1 8PF.

About Mad Dog
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24 Responses to Saponara

  1. Gerlinde says:

    A real good pizza would make me very happy right now.

  2. Eha says:

    Feel quite envious: this is such an inviting place to have within a stone’s throw of one’s home! And thank you for the link to ‘nduja’: knew the name and now I know a lot more 🙂 ! But do find the cost of the house wines a wee bit steep by our standards . . .

  3. Surprised at the San Pelligrino accompaniment. Pizzas sounded excellent. We must catch up. Have you dined at Sardine yet? a nearby hostelry. HC Alex Jackson was a chef at Dock Kitchen when I was on my stage.

  4. Conor Bofin says:

    It looks like an excellent spot. My kind of dinning for sure. I have used Sobrassada in various dishes over the years. It’s a great addition to pork stews, adding depth and breath of flavour.

  5. Nadia says:

    I have been craving pizza for a few days!
    Your photos are not helping and I cannot get to Islington. Might have to make one for dinner tonight now.

  6. Sorry MD – cleared files from my computer and so I lost YOUR email you sent me earlier. Please please send it back to me. Thanks 🙂 🙂

  7. Haven’t eaten proper nduja since I was last in Calabria over 30 years ago! This was where my dad was born, so I think I need to make a visit to Saponara and raise a glass to his memory while eating some 😀

    • Mad Dog says:

      Hi Tanya – the nduja tastes amazing – I’m sure you will love Saponara and no doubt they will be delighted to have a visitor with Calabrian heritage.
      BTW do you know where the word nduja comes from? I looked it up online, because it has a similar North African sound to a lot of Spanish words, but I couldn’t find anything related to the origin. Obviously the Moors wouldn’t have been making sausages with pork!

  8. OHO!! Next time for sure – this sounds great! I love pizza but only once in a while – it is SO more-ish.. Have a good one.. c

  9. Pingback: ‘Nduja | Mad Dog TV Dinners

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