Radio Alice is to launch in Hoxton Square on Monday. Second things second: Radio Alice is not a radio station but a pizzeria (although you can tune in to the restaurant’s playlist on their web site). Except, to call it a pizzeria doesn’t really do it justice. And calling it a gastronomic revolution in pizza-based entertainment might be taking it a little too seriously.
The truth is perhaps somewhere in between. It all began with brothers Salvatore and Matteo Aloe, who, skint out of university and bored by the clichéd red-checked tablecloths and faux Italian music, decided to put their own mark on the humble pizza. The focus was on respect and joy. Respect for techniques, ingredients, suppliers and staff. Joy in eating, sharing and the cathartic burning of the aforementioned red-check tablecloths.
They used mother yeast and ancient stoneground flour, so the base was crispy outside and soft inside. They left the dough to ferment at ambient temperature for 24 hours, so it didn’t make you feel like falling asleep at the table. And instead of incinerating the feisty flavours, they cooked the base first, cut it into eight slices and added organic, seasonal toppings afterwards.
The result was Berbere: a pizzeria that had eyebrows raised and appetites whetted all over Italy. Six years, numerous outstanding reviews from critics and five restaurants later, the brothers met their friend Emma King, a co-founder of Gail’s Bakery, and a plan was set in motion to come to London. The only difference was – perhaps the result of a few negronis – it would be called Radio Alice.
You’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of Radio Alice. Set up (and closed down by the police just over a year later) in Bologna in the 1970s, it gave a voice to whoever wanted to be heard.
‘It was the soundtrack to Bologna’s counterculture,’ says Salvatore. ‘Radio Alice was fiercely Italian and deeply rooted in the rebellious. Their proud spirit and unconventional approach have always been an inspiration to us, and we hope today’s Radio Alice Hoxton will be much the same.’ ‘Without the police closing us down,’ adds Emma quickly.
‘We want our food to reflect that attitude,” says Matteo. “So the ingredients are from traditional organic and slow food producers in Italy and Britain. But the combinations have a modern vibe: anchovies, red onion, lemon zest and tomato; gorgonzola, speck, honey, fiordilatte and walnuts; prosciutto di Parma, burrata, orange infused oil and fiordilatte. If it feels right, it is right.’
Alongside the pizzas will be a short menu of piccoli, and house made dolci. (Think chocolate gelato with a liquorice brioche; cucumber, lemon and mint sorbet with a dash of gin. Now close your mouth.) To help wash it down the brothers have a selection of their favourite Italian organic wines, including a bag and box wine from Libera Terra, a co-operative set up on land liberated from mafia control. If beer’s more your tipple, then it’s worth raising a glass or two of La Bassa, the brothers’ bespoke collaboration with Brew Fist in Italy, or there’s a pale ale from London’s Kernel Brewery.
You can find Radio Alice in an old school building in Hoxton Square, N1. The ceilings are high, the furniture is salvaged, the terrace is the kind of place where you can all too easily forget time, and the doors will soon be open. We hope you can join us.
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