Spotlight: Zia Lucia
— 16 Jan 2019, 11:00 by Lauren Furey
What's the one food that we can pretty much all agree on? Perfect for tearing and sharing, it can only be Italy's biggest export - pizza. That's why we're excited to have Zia Lucia join us at Boxpark Wembley. We sat down with co-founder, Claudio, to find out more.
Tell us who you are and what you do.
Zia Lucia brings Londoners a new way to enjoy pizza. By combining a special selection of unique doughs, rare in the London pizza scene, with a flair for real Italian community style, Zia Lucia has created a distinctive experience for pizza lovers across the city. Zia Lucia’s unique variety of Italian 48-hour slow fermented doughs are inspired by ancient traditions brought from across Italy to London.
First opened on Holloway Road in a burgeoning foodie pocket of Islington and then expanded to Blythe Road (Kensington), Zia Lucia, which translates as 'Auntie Lucia' is run by a team of passionate Italians. We created Zia Lucia with the help of family, friends and local figures. Inspired and named after Gianluca’s Auntie Lucia: a warm, generous figure in her family and community in Rome, these important values are recreated in this neighbourhood pizzeria.
We offer four types of slow fermented doughs, and any pizza can be chosen on one of them: from the traditional flour dough to an unusual vegetable charcoal black base, from a healthy wholemeal option to special dough made without gluten. Pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven, specifically designed and handcrafted in Naples for Zia Lucia.
Priced from £7-£12, the wood-fired pizzas feature are all available on the four types of dough. The pizza menu ranges from traditional ones (marinara, margherita, etc) and also features innovative twists, using unusual toppings such as truffle honey, olive pathe, pecorino cheese, asparagus, and a butternut squash cream used in their La Vegana (vegan pizza).
Alongside the pizzas, our menu features a selection of Italian style starters, salads and desserts, including an innovative and appetising pizza dessert, and the evergreen tiramisu’, which is made at the restaurant.
How did Zia Lucia come about?
We are both Islingtonians and pizza lovers. We would go for a pizza together to talk about anything, from sports to politics, from gossips to business ideas, almost once a week. But to get a proper pizza we would have to travel far so we thought, why don’t we open one ourselves, where all our friends can go? So we decided to embark into this fabulous adventure. The concept was clear from day one: no compromise on quality of ingredients, a huge handcrafted wood fired oven from Naples (where pizza was invented), open plan cooking with a counter where guests can eat and look at the amazing art of pizza baking, moderate prices, cozy atmosphere. In terms of the pizza, we both thought that there were several good pizza places around, however too few pay attention to the dough. For us, the dough is a religion: we put a lot of research into it and we decided to bring our 4 types of 48h slow fermented doughs to London.
The key factor is the combination of both taste and digestibility: pizza needs to be super tasty and flavoursome, but at the same type light and digestible. Eating is not just about the moment when you sit at the restaurant, but also all its phases. Otherwise, how can you eat several pizzas per week?
What song best sums up your brand?
When we opened Holloway Road in 2016 we had no idea of how many clients we would have per day; of course we had a minimum in mind, but no idea of how it could actually go. We thought 80-90 pizzas per day would be a success.. we opened, and we did 500 pizzas on the first two days: queue all the time.. I remember we had to go and buy more Aperol from the off-licence! It was overwhelming: an experience you cannot describe – guests were so happy that finally an authentic pizza opened in Holloway Road, you could see their joy. And when we started serving the first black pizzas, man that was fun! The expressions were hilarious: nobody knew what it was and there was a lot of curiosity around it.
We were there, Gianluca and I doing what we love: explaining what is Zia Lucia to the customers coming in for the first time, sharing our passion for our doughs, showing them the amazing pizza craft art and the beautiful handcrafted pizza oven, and receiving their feedbacks. All this, running around all the time like headless chickens: we would never had thought such a flow of people and we were in a sort of trance. We could not fill the fatigue, and the adrenaline level was high. Music was also flowing, and what we played the most was “Sultan of Swing” by Dire Straits. That song then became a classic for us on busy nights, it is an adrenaline booster. And probably it sums-up well some of our traits: a group of passionate pizza lovers, who would do this just for the fun, and would never end up the night shift if there are customers enjoying it.
“And then the man
He steps right up to the microphone
And says at last
Just as the time bell rings
"Goodnight, now it's time to go home"
Then he makes it fast
With one more thing
"We are the Sultans –
We are the Sultans of Swing"
What can customers expect from you at Boxpark Wembley?
We will bring our queue-generating four types of dough to Wembley Park: traditional, vegetable charcoal, wholemeal and gluten free. Customers would experience a different way of enjoying pizzas: genuine, fresh and authentic toppings, served on 4 different slow-fermented doughs, baked in a handcrafted wood fired oven made for us in Naples. The 4 doughs are the star of the show: it is where taste and digestibility meet! But it’s not all about pizzas: as started they can taste and share selection of Italian cheeses (pecorino, gorgonzola, taleggio, buffalo mozzarella), Italian cured meat (parma ham, speck, mortadella), fresh burratas, bruschetta, focaccia; for lunch we have a selection of large salads using local vegetables; and the cherry on the cake: the desserts, all home made. The tiramisu is a best seller, the recipe is exactly what our grandmothers used to treat us with. And the Pizza Dessert, home-made custard, fresh fruit and Nutella in the crust!
What is your favourite item on your menu?
We love all our dishes! But if we have to mention some then we would start with sharing a Burrata (fresh and imported from a small supplier in the Puglia region, where the burrata is from!) and a Bruschetta with Nduja – yes, the bruschetta with the famous spicy nduja, directly imported from Calabria. In terms of the pizzas, our signature ones are probably the Arianna and the Andrea Pirlo, both on Vegetable Charcoal Dough which is black. Both pizzas have been created by us, applying an innovative twist around classics. They are Pizza Bianca (no tomato) and are very very cheesy, hence the perfect pairing with the vegetable charcoal dough, which is crunchier and drier and absorbs well all the cheese flavoursome-ness.
The Arianna pizza is with Mozzarella, fresh sausage, taleggio goat cheese, pecorino cheese, truffle honey. It’s a big hit among customers and one of the most mentioned in articles and reviews.
The Andrea Pirlo pizza – recommended by British Airways High Life Magazine of October 2018 (we just found out thanks to a client who flew with BA!) - is with mozzarella, gorgonzola, apple, truffle and olive sauce.
And for dessert, the home-made tiramisu: it’s like being home again, sitting for a Sunday lunch with our grandparents.
Which other Boxpark trader would you recommend to customers?
We look forward to joining such an exciting range of operators, bringing their food from all over the world. We can’t wait to try them all, live and breathe with them day in and day out, be inspired by their flavours: there will be a fascinating cross-cultural food contamination among operators - just watch this space!
What is your favourite thing about Wembley?
Wembley Park is one of the biggest regeneration projects in Europe. When BoxPark asked us whether we were interested to join their line-up, we went to see it and we were enthusiastically impressed. Another part of London, another strong community flair, yet under a huge transformation. We liked the spirit of BoxPark of creating a space where the community can “eat, drink, play”: the idea that locals can enjoy live performances, old movies, fitness sessions, art craft lessons and have a variety of independent food operators from all over the world really excited us. Being a space where a local community gathers and socialise is really part of our DNA and what we are.