A radical tangent at Francesco Mazzei’s Italian trattoria in Islington, with classic Calabrian cuisine for unbeatable value
When the founder of the City’s L’Anima (the man responsible for bringing the now-ubiquitous N’duja spicy sausage to these shores) opens a new restaurant, two things spring to mind. The first is you have to go. The second, a slight trepidation over the effect on your wallet. The food at Radici rivals Francesco Mazzei's L’Anima, but here, over in Islington, it’s served at a fraction of the price.
Italian for root, Radici is a fitting name for a restaurant whose head chef is returning to Calabrian basics. It’s not just the food (more on that later); the space has a Mediterranean, communal atmosphere, with an open-plan bar, lots of tables and a woodfire oven creating the feeling of a family kitchen. The huge front windows double up as doors and there’s a distinct influence of Italian happy hour over the tables outside.
The menu is a celebration of southern Italy, full of rustic and refined haphazardness. Start in opulence with the roast octopus and cannellini, or plump, as I did, for the Italian salumi and cheese platter, enough for two. The menu continues along the same vein, with homely portions of taglierini nei fagioli or tortelli burrata. The white pizza I was persuaded to order as a third course was light, the base perfectly charred by the wood fire oven, though I only managed half before admitting defeat. A doggie bag was duly requested.
As is always the way, there was somehow, miraculously, room for dessert. The tiramisu was family-sized, as layered as Inception and had me on Expedia looking for flights to Calabria within the hour. The compulsory limoncello digestivo – it had a challenging job to sort through the last three hours – put an end to a feast that anyone, be they mamma or Michelin, would be proud of.