Charcoal base, gluten-free and a soft launch: the perfect ingredients for a pizza prepared in honour of an Italianate looking mummy – “Auntie Lucia”. Islington’s Zia Lucia brings Londoners a truly new way to enjoy pizza. By combining a special selection of unique doughs – rare in the London pizza scene – with a flair for real Italian community style, this restaurant creates a distinctive experience for pizza lovers.
Founders, friends and Holloway residents, Claudio Vescovo and Gianluca D’Angelo have created Zia Lucia with the help of family, friends and local figures. Inspired by and named after Gianluca’s Auntie Lucia, these important values are recreated in this neighbourhood pizzeria. Entirely friend-funded, Zia Lucia’s shareholders are personally involved in the success of the restaurant. General Manager Alessio is a well-known figure in the local neighbourhood, having lived and worked on Holloway Road for over 20 years. The result is a restaurant that is made up of a community of friends and locals alike. Indeed, one of the most successful ingredients of this pizzeria is what seems like an entirely Italian clientele, whose warmth, sociability and love of life and food exudes charm and creates a buzzy setting. So apologetic were the staff of our wait to be seated that we were offered complementary Aperol spritzes once seated in what was turning out to be – judging from the length of the queue in the rain outside – a very very popular pizzeria.
The food, of course, is also what makes this restaurant probably one of my favourite pizzerias. The menu is striking. As well as Italian classics, they also do white pizzas with experimental toppings: Puglian burrata; pecorino; truffle honey; asparagus; spicy orange sauce; and toasted almonds. At prices from £7-£11, it’s quite reasonable given their flair and innovation and it’s an absolute bargain at 50% during the soft launch. To start, my companion and I opted for a fresh and seasonal salad of Rocket, asparagus, tomatoes and sundried tomatoes (£6.20) as we can never resist a salad to accompany an oven dish. The dressing was DIY with top quality olive oil, sea salt and balsamic vinegar placed on the table. Although I was initially surprised not to find a dressed salad, preparing my own seasoning at the table highlighted to me the simplicity of Italian cuisine, which really allows the quality of the ingredients to shine through.
For mains, we shared the Via Del Campo (£9.50) with a charcoal base and a Arianna (£10.80), a classy take on a bianco. The former was classically Italian, with beautifully fresh and ripe tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomatoes da campo and basil. The freshness of the tomatoes was evident from the stunningly bright and light colour of the sauce. The quality of the mozzarella was also outstanding and caprese-style, it was placed delicately on top of the pizza post-oven cooking. Wowed by the quality of the cheese, I couldn’t resist sharing the Arianna, with toppings of mozzarella, courgette, taleggio goat cheese, pecorino cheese and truffle honey, which lent a delicious sweet drizzle so typical of cheese and honey together.
The dough, however, is the real star of the show at Zia Lucia. Having read an article in the Evening Standard, headlined “Charcoal is turning London’s pizzas and burgers into a hangover cure”, I’d been struck by the idea of a charcoal pizza base. This new ingredient seems to be taking over breakfast (avocado on charcoal bread) and dinner, all the more so given its health-giving reputation. Its alkaline properties have proven benefits: it draws together and binds all the nasties and rejects them from your body, neutralizing the excess stomach acid that comes from overindulging. Its fibre also relieves pressure on the digestive system and makes you feel fuller for longer. It seems charcoal (pizza bases) is the new kale. Charcoal on a pizza base works particularly well: the char on the crust deepens into an earthy flavour. The depth of flavour is also a result of the 48-hour slow fermented dough, inspired by ancient traditions brought from across Italy to London. The wood-fired pizzas, meanwhile, are made in an oven handcrafted in Naples and are a joy to watch in the open pizza kitchen.
Looking after your digestive health with a slice of pizza, Zia Lucia is rewarding on all fronts. Following news that Yard Sale is also opening in Finsbury Park, it seems North London is competing with its southern counterpart in the title for the best pizza. The quality of the pizza here is definitely worth the commute.
Zia Lucia, 167 Holloway Road, London, N7 8LX