It was a man named Evandro Barbieri who first brought pizza to Manchester back in the early 70s. Initially working in the kitchens at the Midland Hotel, he struck out on his own and opened Isola Bella on Booth Street in 1970, quickly followed by Bella Napoli in 1973.
People queued down the street for a table at his restaurants, keen to try this brand-new cuisine of pasta and pizza – a far cry from the usual tea most people had every day back then. Chips and Egg, Spam Fritters and the occasional Chicken Kiev were about as exotic as most dinner plates got back then, so when Barbieri came to town, people went a bit nuts.
In the following decades, Manchester was rather quiet on the pizza front, with the occasional exciting new opening taking the pre-party crowd by storm (CROMA) and not much else. If you wanted a pizza, a visit to your local Italian restaurant was necessary, or the local kebab shop.
It wasn’t until around 8 years ago that the ‘pizzeria’ became a force to be reckoned with in the city, as a spate of casual venues started to arrive. There was Slice on Stevenson Square (who are now at Oxford Road Station), Crazy Pedro’s who started their own ‘part-time’ spot for pissed-up revellers and of course – Rudy’s in Ancoats.
Since then we’ve seen all manner of types and toppings in our pizzas, from New York to Detroit, from African-inspired to the world-famous meme-creating Shrek’s Pizza – which, unfortunately, was not worthy of the internet’s prolonged hype and obsession. Italian Roma, Indian Calzones, vegan, all-you-can-eat and even Anglo Saxon pizza – Manchester has it all.
As is now customary with these pieces, I’ll start at the bottom of the list of your favourite pizza joints, as commented on and suggested by our Facebook followers. As is also the case, there were some rather odd replies to the question, with a whopping 50 people proclaiming “ME” – as if their homemade efforts were as good as those on this list here.
A high number of people put ‘ASDA‘ as an answer and although I do actually really rather enjoy an ASDA create-your-own pizza on a Friday night, they seem to be forgetting Manchester’s Finest’s preference to champion local independents.
There was also one follower who took the time to write “No idea” as a reply, thanks for that, and another fella who said “Your mum“. Now, my mum can make a mean Bacon Butty but pizza – she’s terrible – so sorry about that one. Good try though.
I’m going to start off with some pizza places that you may be surprised didn’t get more recommendations, including the excellent L’Antica de Michele on King Street, which often gets the moniker of “Best Pizza in the World” due to the strength and popularity of its Naples branches, and Cugini Pizza – run by three cousins in Bolton – first from their auntie’s back yard and now at Edgworth Cricket Club.
Also down here is Pickle Ricks – a Rick & Morty-themed NY pizzeria over in Hazel Grove (and well worth a visit), as well as Reddish favourite I Knead Pizza, who recently secured their own spot in city centre urban village Hatch, and will soon be opening up a new Italian restaurant in Heaton Moor called The Burbs.
Finally, and we’re still on number 10 here, is RAMONA and their chunky Detroit slices (with the hot honey dip of course) and Lucky Mama’s who have recently opened up their own bricks-and-mortar site in Chorlton and pioneer an exceptional menu that brings together influences from Senegal, Spain and Chile.
Okay, next up in at number 9 is Crazy Pedro’s, one of the pioneers of the city’s current pizza resurrection and home to some seriously mad toppings. At the moment they’ve got a special Nando’s pizza on their menu, loaded with Peri Peri Chicken, Spicy Fries, Halloumi, Peas and a special Peri Peri Mayo. Available throughout the night until 4 am – Pedro’s is the perfect place for pizza while you’re getting hammered – and they seem to be doing really rather well with it. If you find yourself in there and a bit peckish – I’ll forever recommend their ‘Mac Daddy’ which is essentially a Maccies Big Mac on a pizza.
Next up is Double Zero in Chorlton, who have impressed for a few years now with their Neapolitan pies and very welcome BYOB policy. It’s rare to find this place not packed out, with people flocking from far and wide to get a taste of their extensive menu and topping combinations. Wood-fired and cooked in seconds, they’re exactly how they should be – crispy, chewy and absolutely caked in cheese.
Another Neapolitan favourite is Ciaooo on Swan Street, which comes in at number 7. Located in what might be the Northern Quarter, or might be Ancoats – just don’t call it neither. I find it highly likely that you’ll have seen some pictures of the pizzas here at Ciaoo at some point in your time on social media – because these pies look absolutely unreal. With regular monthly specials, usually with some outlandish and imaginative toppings such as their current Mac & Cheese special (topped with burrata) or their Wild Boar Salami topped with deep-fried courgette, sausage and burrata. They’re very Instagram-friendly but unlike some places – they pull through with the goods in real life too.
Finally at number 6 is Bakehouse32 in Stretford, a relative newcomer to the pizza scene in the city but a joint that has made a big impression and gained some seriously loyal customers during that time. Their meld of NY and Neapolitan style-pizzas has really put them on the map; big, thin, crispy but also chewy – it’s the best of both worlds and this place being round the corner from my house has NOT been kind on my double chin. The Pepperoni Hot Honey is a highlight, as is their Burnt Basque Cheesecake for afters.
Now onto the top five, and there are some surprises in here. But also, no surprises at all…
A huge favourite down at SOCIETY and set to open up their own spot in Prestwich any day now, Dokes comes from the brain of Michael Clay who also owns Elnecot, and once you know that – it all makes sense. Elnecot has championed the very best of British produce for years, and this is something that continues with Dokes, coined as ‘Anglo Saxon’ pizza due to the long list of British ingredients that go into each one. You’ll find Welsh chorizo, truffles from Wilshire, British burrata and Saddleworth hot honey on these outstanding pies – and Michael is always on the look out for new produce and combos to add to the menu.
Bursting onto the scene in 2019 with their own gaff in Failsworth, the Corner Slice team have recently expanded their operation to include a dark kitchen in the city centre – opening their outstanding Detroit pies to even more of us hungry pizza-ficionados. Detroit pizza means that these huge slabs of dough and cheese are cooked to perfection in blue steel metal containers – which Corner Slice have imported all the way from the US of A. They’ve taken over the kitchens at Jimmy’s in Ancoats for the summer, so if you want one – head on down there.
These New York-style pizzas are available as a whopping 22-inch pie, alongside their traditional 14-inch and by the slice at Nell’s new standalone restaurant and Slice Bar over at the KAMPUS development on Canal Street. Nell’s has become massively popular in the short time that they’ve been open, helped by some seriously good marketing during the COVID pandemic, as well as the sheer quality of their pizzas. Oh and their £7.77 Lunch Deal is very hard to beat.
A huge surprise here, although probably not for its many lovers and loyal fans – Cibus Pizza in Levenshulme. This place came to our attention back in 2019 when owners Marco & Giorgio opened up a little pop-up on Saturday afternoons outside Electrik in Chorlton. At the time they were operating upstairs of Fred’s Ale House in Levenshulme, as well as regular spots at Levvy Market. They now have their very own restaurant right next to The Union Inn, continuing this established quest for outstanding pizza, with an added menu of pasta dishes and small plates.
Of course, Rudy’s is number one. This must be the least surprising result since Red Rum turned up to the 1979 Grand National wearing rollerskates. Starting life as a small pizzeria on the newly transformed Cutting Room Square in Ancoats in 2015, Rudy’s has since been the catalyst that has grown and shaped the city’s pizza landscape, from the boom in Neapolitan pies, to huge delivery numbers during lockdown. They were voted the 10th Best Pizza in the WORLD back in 2019 and their growth continues, with new locations in Sale, Chorlton, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Soho, Sheffield and soon to be on Portland Street in the city centre.