For a pre-mother’s day treat, a pizza supper with the family was called for (by me…!). This was also the perfect excuse to try out the new concept pizzeria, Radio Alice. So enticing did their Instagram photographs look that they’d lured me to Hoxton Square…on a Sunday evening. Both the Pizze Rosse (with an organic tomato base) and the Pizze Bianche (with an organic fiordilatte base) looked like works of art. And let’s not forget the vegan Pizza Viola, billed as “no tomato, no cheese but the same joy”.
Originally Berbere, this unique Italian pizzeria has raised eyebrows but whetted appetites all over Italy. Six years and five restaurants later, the brothers met their friend Emma King, a co-founder of Gail’s bakery, and made a plan to come to London. It already seemed to have the perfect ingredients for a pizzeria: Italian roots and Gail’s baking. A match made in heaven.
As noted, Radio Alice is a unique pizzeria…Its founders, brothers Matteo and Salvatore Aloe, just out of university, were bored by the clichéd red-checked tablecloths and faux Italian music so typical of trattorias. Wanting to put their own mark on the humble pizza, their solution was to add the toppings after the base is cooked. For them, this allows you to fully appreciate the flavours. Although Grace Dent’s review had presented a negative picture, I was keen on trying out this reinvention of the classic. Grace Dent, of course, is a hard critic to please; she’s even sceptical of O’ver in Southwark – another pizzeria on my to-go-to list – since they use pure seawater from Naples in their pizzas. She’s also anti their approach to bringing plates when they’re ready: “It’s pizza, not a new section of the f***ing Bayeux Tapestry”. Whilst this is a well-thought out metaphor for fresh-out-of-the-kitchen dining, is seems uncalled for?! Dishes should, I think, be eaten and enjoyed as and when they’re ready. Long over are the days when people eat formally at the same time, without trying a bite of fellow diners’ plates. We live in a tapas culture, even (and especially) when it comes to pizza.
Radio Alice’s menu is clearly organised into three sections: pizze rosse, pizza bianche and pizza viola. Refreshingly, you’re not allowed to ask for alterations. This is definitely helpful in my efforts to be more decisive…Swapping ingredients here and there – oblivious and almost disrespectful to the well-thought out combinations – would disrupt the balance of flavours. I like their puritanical approach to pizzas.
For starters, my companions shared the Burrata with sourdough. They found this creamy mozzarella perfectly oozing. The elasticity of the cheese certainly looked like edible luxury to me.
Onto the pizzas, opting for all the vege options, we shared the Fiordilatte, tomato and basil (£7), the Chard, taleggio cheese, smoked ricotta and fiorlatte (£12); and the Beetroot puree, sautéed leeks, black Taggiasca olives (£8.50). Each arrived when ready (in that order), after we’d finished its predecessor. For me, this is the best way to enjoy food – hot and fresh out of oven, each pizza leaves you craving for me. Thoughtfully, the pizzas are already cut into eight for us. That way, we could all dive straight in and try a bit of each of the pizzas – sharing style. And the bases on all three pizzas, made from mother yeast and ancient stoneground flour, created a light texture. Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, these crusts were definitely not ones to discard.
The classic tomato pizza, for my companions, was the highlight of the evening. After all, the best pizzas usually feature only the staple ingredients: buffalo mozzarella, a generously topped tomato sauce and a few basil leaves torn here and there. So fresh and wonderfully baked was the base that the cheese melted before us.
For me, though, the best pizza of the night was the pizza bianco. The salty, moreishness of the cheeses was divine, particularly the smokey ricotta. Heaven.
Whilst it’s thoughtful that this Italian pizzeria has a vegan option, for me the beetroot base doesn’t compete with its tomato counterpart. And pizza is just never the same without cheese. Though deliciously garlicy, the marinara always underwhelms. And in this case, the combination of leeks and olives – though not bad – wasn’t the most well-thought out.
Unsurprisingly, most of this review has focused on the pizzas. But for just a passing note on the décor, Radio Alice, which sits next to a beautiful church in Hoxton Square, is stylishly designed, cosily lit – especially the outside terrace which would be perfect for a party – and a lovely space to spend a couple of hours.
Oh and Radio Alice’s another unusual twist is its music: the pizzeria is, as the name gives away, named after Radio Alice, a pirate radio station that broadcasted in the 1970s from a two room attic in the centre on Bologna. Although it only ruled the airwaves for just over a year, the legacy of Radio Alice lives on long after the microphones were silenced. Its fiery spirit and unconventional attitude gave a voice to many. And the soundtrack of the restaurant itself played a part in creating an ideal Sunday night supper setting. All in all, Radio Alice undoubtedly competes with Zia Lucia for my title of the best pizzeria in town.
Radio Alice Pizzeria, 16 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NT