Living in Islington I’m completely spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a restaurant when the belly grumbles. Granted many of them nowadays are of the chain variety. A double-edged sword for us, as it does make for easy pickings when out with the kids. On the other hand its sad to see your high street turning into generic. So when I heard on the grapevine that Francesco Mazzei had opened Radici, a Southern Italian restaurant in Islingon… in my hood…!? Well, I can’t deny it. I was more than a little excited.
I was a big fan of his former residency at L’Anima in the city. He is now heading up Sartoria in Mayfair too. So I was keeping my fingers crossed for a ‘real’ Italian in Islington. Something surprisingly rare in this pocket of London.
The lightly distressed walls, a colour scheme of pale terracotta and pastels along with the random selection of chairs, it definitely gives it a rustic trattoria feel, If not with an airbrushing of Islington chic. The sheer size of the dining area which very quickly fills up with theatre-goers for the Almedia opposite creates a real buzz.
You can also catch a glimpse into the huge open kitchen with a wood fire pizza oven. The Italian banter from the chefs only adds to the authentic trattoria feel.
The menu feature all the usual Italian structure – antipasti, primi, secondi, pizza and not forgetting the all important dolci! We began our Southern Italian foodie journey with some Nocellara olives (£2.50) whilst we perused the menu.
The wine list is full of Southern Italian delights and plenty of by-the-glass options. We went for a carafe of the 2016 Ciro from Calabria, very similar to a Sauvignon Blanc.
A huge fan of burrata, I couldn’t help but ask for a vegetarian version as the one on the menu came with broccoli and anchovy (£10). The sumptuous milky cheese sat on top of a bed of juicy peppers drenched in oil and herbs with a smattering of hazelnuts. Simple and perfectly executed. I loved the crunchy texture of the hazelnuts against the smoothness of the creamy burrata.
The children’s menu ticked the pizza, pasta, chicken and fish boxes. Both girls naturally opted for pizza margherita (£5) after spotting the huge wood fire pizza oven and the chef spinning around the pizza dough.
Although explaining to them they couldn’t go and make their own heart-shaped pizzas like they did in the Dolomites didn’t go down too well. When they arrived I had serious food envy as they tucked into the perfectly charred dough and stringy mozzarella & tomato fest. Next time!
My aubergine parmigiana (£10) arrived as whole slice layered with thick tomato sauce (just like mama makes it), melted cheese and crowned with a single basil leaf. Not the prettiest of dishes, but one of the tastiest parmigianas that have passed these lips.
And I have to take a moment to gush over the roasted potatoes in rosemary and garlic. So buttery, so moreish and so melt in the mouth. I would have been happy with a huge plate of them to myself.
Mr S kept up the burrata theme and ordered tortelli burrata (£13). Again, a simple dish where the quality of the produce speaks for itself.
Desserts were a triumph! Mr S was pleased with the marsala tiramisù (£6.50) a small glass filled with layers of cream and boozy masala soaked goodness. Radha was in ice-cream heaven with her hazelnut number and shrieked with delight ‘mummy it has real hazelnuts in it!’.
The winner though was watching my five-year old polish off a (unbeknownst to her) aubergine and chocolate cake (£2). Devoured in record time, her face was a picture when I told her what was actually in it. Although I fear now she’ll want her aubergine doused in chocolate now at home.
With its friendly service and a price list which is extremely reasonable for an Upper Street restaurant (you can get a margherita pizza for £8!). I can see this place becoming a firm favourite with the Islingtonites.
Radici translates as ‘roots’ and I honestly feel Mazzei has laid down some permanent ones in north London. I’m just overjoyed that I now finally have a ‘real’ local Italian to tantalise my tastebuds when I so desire.
Radici | 30 Almeida St| Islington | London | N1 1AD
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