People say that jealousy is an ugly trait. That it breeds unhappiness, and resentment, and all the stuff yoga and oat milk is meant to sort out. The thing is, these people have clearly never been to Theo’s in Camberwell. They’ve never watched a pizza fritta the size of a (ricotta-filled) baby be plonked on someone else’s table. Or been DM’d the sauciest of saucy pictures: a Neapolitan pizza dripping with chilli oil. If jealousy is a bad thing, then why does it make you eat things that taste so good?
The reason why Theo’s induces these feelings is because there’s so much to like. So much quality that’s worth travelling any distance for. From their lunchtime £5 panuozzo pizza sandwiches, to their gulpable cups of homemade chilli sauce, to the sweet tomatoes, to the chewy sourdough crusts. If you’re one for getting your money’s worth, then the value-to-quality-to-enjoyment ratio is amongst the best you can find in London.
This is a restaurant that fuels jealousy before sating it. Walk past midweek at lunchtime and you’ll see a white, bright, and marble-tabled room with a smattering of serene-looking pizza eaters. Given the minimalist space and the unnerving look of comfort on everyone’s faces, you might think this is a piece of performance art. It’s not. It’s just what a daytime piece of pizza and a glass of rosé will do to you here. You’ll want in.
Walk past at night and the Marina Abramovic atmosphere of the daytime is swapped for something a little more Tracey Emin-inspired. The booths are filled, the negronis are flowing, and somebody is When Harry Met Sally-ing a slice of bufalina pizza covered in Theo’s ride-or-die chilli sauce. A couple of Big Bertha croquettes will make heads turn and quick-fire orders bounce across the room. You’ll book for next weekend.
Beyond going all dads-in-the-hallway-of-a-party and telling you to come via the A2, not the A3, there’s little else to say. Except that, when it comes to Theo’s, being jealous is a good thing. It’s the feeling that will make you order a spritz when you see one go past, or an ice cream panuozzo even though you’ve already asked for the bill. Because it’s not just the pizza being done well here. It’s pretty much everything.
Some croquettes are a single molten mouthful, and others are two or three biters. These are the latter. They’re pretty soft and satisfying, though not a necessity.
When in doubt, fry it. This is an approach that’s served everything from leftover risotto, to a Mars Bar, superbly. It’s no different with pizza. This £6 fritta is full of ricotta, pork belly bits, mozzarella, and topped with tomato sauce. It’s delicious, crispy, light, and absolutely massive.
In the day there are four or five wood fire pizza dough sandwiches on that are, at a fiver, one of London’s best value lunches. We’ve had an excellent sausage and friarielli (a crunchy and bitter green) one before, and their take on a tuna melt is a go-to.
Tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. The classic. The Neapolitan pizzas here are thin base with thick and chewy sourdough crusts. You can’t go wrong with this. It’s a lovely pizza.
Datterini tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil. This will turn you into the kind of person who breathlessly repeats the word datterini as if it’s parseltongue for Observer Food Monthly readers.
This scotch bonnet nduja and sopressata number almost reduced us to snivelling wrecks. It’s got a serious kick, and if that’s your thing, you’ll love it.
If you know you know. And if you don’t know then get down to Theo’s, look at the cup of chilli sauce on your table, think ‘that’s too much’, and then look again at the end of your meal. This stuff is coming in our coffin with us.