Slices of joy at Zia Lucia, Aldgate East

05 Mar 2020

Having now opened spots in most corners above the river, Zia Lucia has opened its fourth door in Aldgate East for the multitude of sloggers in East London in need of a welcoming Italian hug. The hug I refer to, of course, comes in the form of a neighbourhood-style restaurant serving authentic pizzas made with 48-hour slow-fermented dough.

I visited and loved the Islington branch, and was mighty keen to see what joys Zia (aunt in Italian) Lucia would bring me in Aldgate East – the location of my current freelance job, no less. So stroll over from the office I did. Bigger than the Islington branch but with the exact same buzz and bustle of Italian charm, the Aldgate location is dotted with similar quirks. I particularly enjoyed a Kramer vs Kramer poster across from my table, and the intimate tables beside floor-to-ceiling windows.

We ordered an Aperol Spritz each, a delightfully bittersweet, light, and refreshing start to the meal – a real must. Then, a burrata, doused in olive oil and pepper and served with a single basil leaf. A slice into the sphere prompted soft, creamy burrata cheese to be released from its casing. Always an enjoyable liberation to witness and even more enjoyable to eat – especially with that very special Belcari olive oil I’d remembered from my last visit in Islington. The focaccia starter, although outrageously heaped into an impossible pile, was wondrous. Pillowy yet slightly charred and crispy in places and sprinkled with dried Italian herbs. Oregano, you make me swoon.

My guest opted for the Arianna pizza on the traditional base, decked out with mozzarella, fresh sausage, taleggio goat cheese, pecorino cheese, and truffle honey. “A perfect marriage of sweet and salty,” she called it. Personally, I believe truffle honey with cheese is a marriage that needs no counselling, and the sausage is just a bonus. Having already tried the famed Andrea Pirlo pizza on my last visit and as a willing victim of aubergine’s allure, I went for the Parmigiana with the vegetable charcoal base (boasting digestive gas-absorbing capacities). While the aubergine was as squishy and sweet as ever, the star of the pizza lay in the name. Hard shavings of parmesan scattered atop the pizza added a sharpness that complemented the flavourful tomato base. If you can handle your spice, drizzle on some of Zia Lucia’s homemade chilli oil and please do not be fooled by its lack of hue. Despite being reassuringly olive oil-like in colour, this will knock your tongue for six with an unexpected build of heat. We both learned this the hard way but appreciated it all the same.

If you can stomach more dough (we could, as it happened), finish your meal with pizza dessert. Crispy in texture, the slices are slathered with custard, Nutella, and a colourful selection of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and shavings of apple. Indulgence to a silly level.

Once again, Zia Lucia, you strike me with your mighty sword of dough and cheese. Embarrassingly, I had haughtily assured my personal trainer on the day I was meant to be reviewing the pizzeria that I, and I quote, “won’t really have too much”. Queue the bullsh*t button. I had much. And it was glorious.

Ashiana Pradhan

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