Get a Pizza The Action at Zia Lucia, Islington

05 Dec 2018

On a frosty November weekday, not much would sway me to hang about in the cold, watching longingly through a window pane at diners scooping strings of mozzarella into their mouths with a ‘come to mama’ look on their faces. However - I reckon getting a seat at Zia Lucia might.

Right in the heart of Highbury and Islington sits the original Holloway Road Zia Lucia, a homely Italian restaurant that has now spread to Brook Green and, imminently, Boxpark Wembley on 8th December. Translating to ‘Aunt Lucy’, Zia Lucia exhibits a distinctly ‘Italian family’ vibe, with ­­­welcoming, informative staff, unassuming décor (Elvis poster included), and bottles of Belcari extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the tables and looping around the open kitchen, which in turn sits comfortably amid diners and bustles sweetly in typically Italian fashion.

Immediately falling into the informal feel, we sat and grabbed excitedly at the menu to select our respective indulgences. “Obviously we are having burrata” I declared – almost immediately – “Did you know it means ‘buttery’ in Italian?” Rightfully, I was pulled back from my burrata hype to address the discussion of booze. Wine at Zia Lucia is wonderfully affordable, but not for the choosy as there are less than five options for each colour. The stars of the drinks menu are the negronis and Aperol spritz, offering the perfect amount of tangy-meets-sweet to cut through the cheese feast to come.

The burrata arrived, the cold and creamy / firm yet soft dollop of loveliness that it always is – drizzled delicately with the type of extra virgin olive oil that would put your Sainsbury’s version at home to shame. If, like me, you order Burrata at every time you see it on a menu, you’ll be more than pleased to hear the new  Boxpark Wembley location will house an exclusive ‘Burrata Bar’, showcasing creamy goodness sourced from Puglia. To accompany our burrata, we chose the aubergines – beautifully roasted and offering a pleasant textural contrast when paired with the smooth burrata in a mouthful. Coat the lot in extra olive oil for the full effect.

What’s pretty rad (I’m bringing back the word rad, one review at a time) about Zia Lucia is the fact you can choose from four different types of dough – the unique Vegetable Charcoal (digestive gas-absorbing qualities – awesome), Wholemeal (for the cal-counters among us), Without Gluten and Traditional. And what special dough it is – 48-hour slow-fermented sourdough with a chewy yet light and crispy quality, no less. And, as we see more often than not at pizzerias nowadays, it’s all cooked in a wood-fired oven.

Being the radical adventurer that I am (and having swarmed all over the internet for recommendations the same day) I opted for the Andrea Pirlo on the Vegetable Charcoal base. A pizza named after a former professional footballer from Italy fuelled many a question. Does he know about this pizza named after him? If he does, does he like it? Would he be able to eat it for free everyday if he lived in London? Questions that will go unanswered unless, Andrea, you are reading this now and would like to respond.

You could smell the truffle a mile off, and how majestic the scent of it was. My Andrea Pirlo scored a hat-trick with the wonderfully weird (and actually black) Vegetable Charcoal base, the richness and depth of the Gorgonzola and truffle, and the sweet slices of apple.

My guest, more inclined to the safe favourite, opted for the Nduja with a Traditional base. And sometimes, I must say, playing it safe trumps all when the winning combination of cheese and tomato on a pizza is so hard to beat. Beautifully simple, the pizza offered the perfect level of spice within the paste known as ‘nduja’ – a spreadable spicy pork sausage. This sat in clumps among a generous amount of cheese and four basil leaves that soaked their flavour into the mozzarella. Genius.

 When it comes to dessert, one must ask oneself a question: have I fully devoted myself to pizza tonight? If the answer is yes – and it really should be if you’re at a pizzeria, then opt for the Pizza dessert, a glorious thing with oozing Nutella in the crust and the freshest fruit to harmonise. An ideal sharing option for dough-loving diners. We will be returning for the ricotta cheesecake, guaranteed.

So – all in all, Zia Lucia will have you rolling yourself back out into the cold, full to the brim and giddy with cheese, olive oil and sourdough. It won’t have you splurging your lira, and it guarantees to satisfy any pizza craving. It’s honest, authentic, adventurous and traditional – all in one sitting.


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