Roam to the Holloway Road
Team behind eye-catching new venture Berto Pasta have done a terrific job
31 October, 2019 — By Tom Moggach
Berto Pasta is a short walk from Highbury Corner
THE story of Zia Lucia has taken a happy new twist, after the founders signed a lease on the place next door.
Their innovative pizzeria in Holloway Road has been a smash hit since it opened in 2016.
The original Zia Lucia concept was bold, stylish and well-executed: four types of experimental pizza dough, from which you pick then add your topping. I’ll never forget their jet-black charcoal pizza – a striking idea later copied by rivals across the capital.
Over the past few years, owners Claudio Vescovo and Gianluca D’Angelo have rolled out three more Zia Lucia pizzerias plus a do-it-yourself salad brand via Deliveroo, using bases such as black venus rice, farro and quinoa.
Their new venture is Berto Pasta, now trading at 155 Holloway Road and a short walk from Highbury Corner.
True to form, the branding is eye-catching. Magnificent moustaches are a feature, both in the graphic of Berto – their pasta-making guru based near Rome – and the head chef on duty when we visited. The charming manager styled himself with similar gusto, with fabulous coiffed hair and heavy black-rimmed glasses.
All their pastas are handmade. Berto offers a gluten-free dough (notoriously hard to perfect), plus vegan and wholewheat options.
The team have done a terrific job on the décor: the gleaming open kitchen takes pride of place, swathed in steam from the pasta boilers.
There’s plenty of natural light, bouncing off the white floor tiles, and blasts of colour from a large abstract mural and brightly painted Berto ceramics.
The chefs offer around 10 pasta dishes each day, sensibly priced from £8-13. For Halloween, their special was black squid ink fettuccine with semi-dry tomatoes and butternut squash.
To start, there’s a tempting selection of deep-fried “fritti”. Top marks for the crisp sardines, sourced from legendary local fishmonger Steve Hatt in Essex Road.
You can sample quality Italian charcuterie and cheeses, such as buffalo ricotta served with chestnut honey and mint.
Interesting vegetable options include grilled radicchio or sautéed chicory with chilli – a rustic Italian side dish.
We tried two of their pastas. Cacio e pepe is a Roman dish that’s bang on-trend in this capital, relying on a thick emulsion of melted cheeses and generous hit of black pepper.
In the other, ribbons of tagliatelle are tossed with a white rabbit ragu, capers and black olives.
For me, the pastas were decent but not spectacular. The cheese sauce was a little loose and watery; the rabbit dish a fraction too dry.
But tastes in pasta are highly personal. In Italy, for example, pasta is cooked more briefly, with an al dente texture that many people here might find off-putting.
Stepping out onto Holloway Road, it’s an uplifting and unusual sight to see two sister restaurants trading side by side.
At peak times, there are often short but happy queues. The dilemma is which to go for – pizza or pasta – as both are crafted with love and flair.
155 Holloway Road, N7
020 7052 3893