A meal at Radici, Islington
I first met Francesco Mazzei when I participated in a really cool cooking contest sponsored by Grana Padano. He was a judge and I was a ‘finalist’ blogger. I did not win, but I had a lot of fun, met some lovely fellow bloggers and of course, met Francesco.
Since then, I’ve visited his Mayfair outpost, Sartoria, a few times and I’ve had the honour to cover it for the Identita’ Golose 2018 Restaurant guide, just published.
He opened his second London restaurants a few months ago, in Islington. He’d mentioned it was more a family restaurant, a ‘trattoria’ in his neighborhood where he in fact, dines himself for sunday lunch with his family when his busy schedule allows. I’d promised him I would visit with my own family soon, and finally we managed to organise a trip ‘up north’ (well, such it feels like coming from the depth of Elephant & Castle). First, we enjoyed a ride on the mail train with little baby O (and had to leave Amber behind at home), then made our way to Almeida Street where Radici is situated.
Part of the D&D group, it is not exactly the informal trattoria I had pictured. It is a spacious, elegant space, very bright on a sunny day, with an attractive bar on one side and the kitchen at the back, separate but with open arches so one can watch the chefs at work.
As we arrived, we watched in awe as their master butcher was prepping a massive turkey, ready for the oven, while a piece of just out of the oven roast turkey was being sliced on the next cutting board.
We were offered a taster and as we chomped on a delicious piece of freshly cooked bird, Francesco came out of the kitchen greeting us, saying ‘this is our special today, with pumpkin puree and roast chestnuts’.
We took our seats and while feeding baby O, we ordered an aperitif (prosecco for @bmcboy and a beautiful ‘Negroni del Mazzei’ for me, a white version made with Cocchi bitter and three black olives which I absolutely loved, light and really good for a lunch tipple).
We shared a couple of starters: Pane pizza with rosemary and Spicy meatballs. The pizza was well seasoned, well cooked and had bite to it, and rightly so as inside the kitchen there’s a big wood fired pizza oven, the proper thing. The meatballs were also authentic, moist and cooked in a rich tomato sauce, a little spicy but perfectly pleasant and filling.
Among the many pasta dishes, we also opted to share something, one portion of Beef lasagna between two and it was enough given we were going for mains too. The lasagna is the ‘northern’ version with mince beef and rich sauce as well as a great helping of Grana Padano, we both really enjoyed it, but the half portion was actually the right size as it was very rich.
Finally, the mains – we both went for the special of the day, the turkey we had tasted initially, especially because we won’t have roast turkey at Christmas in Italy so we might as well enjoy some now. I also love chestnuts and pumpkin so it seemed like the perfect option.
The portion was pretty large, the turkey beautifully moist, tender and juicy, and the addition of the chestnut puree on one side and the pumpkin on the other as well as winter greens and gravy made the dish satisfying and indulgent.
I was just too full to order a dessert (but would have gone for a tiramisu’), while @bmcboy went for the special, an Apple tart, which would have perhaps benefited from a dollop of ice cream.
An espresso later, and, baby asleep, we were full, happy and ready to go home.
The restaurant was pretty packed when we left, the sun was still shining and Francesco’s small car (we guess) was parked outside (a shiny black Maserati). We were still pleased to see we fit into our classic mini despite having stuffed our faces to the limit!