Published 20 December 2021
by Josh Barrie
Zia Lucia has been one of the foremost proponents of the pizza boom in London. The group opened its first pizzeria in Islington in 2016. This month, its sixth launched in Balham, way down in south west London, and there are more to come.
What is impressive is despite such a rapid expansion, the quality has remained high. Classic Italian – Neapolitan in technique, largely – pizza is easily found in the capital today, but a handful set themselves apart, and Zia Lucia is among them. Think 081, 50 Kalo, Pizza Pellone, L’Antica, Quaiteri, Bravi Regazzi.
There should be caution. Those listed above have stopped short at one or two sites. Zia Lucia is showing no signs of slowing down. How, then, will the brand maintain its status?
“We continue to be humbled by the love we receive from our customers who constantly ask us to open near where they live,” the founders, Rome-born Claudio Vescovo and Gianluca D’Angelo tell CODE.
“This continues to inspire us and gives us the motivation to continue growing and bring more Zia Lucias across London and potentially even further afield in the future.”
It sounds like Zia Lucia is setting up like Franco Manca five years ago – the Fulham Shore-backed brand has become formidable, arguably replacing PizzaExpress as the go-to option in some towns and cities. CODE asked how the pair plan to retain standards at their business.
They said: “We decided to make a strategic investment across the group. We now have two people fully dedicated to check the products, the consistency of how we prepare the food, and to train all the staff and provide guidance. We have a head chef at each location too”.
Having opened north of the river, south west London was a big step for the group. But, as Vescovo and D’Angelo explain, the area is abundant with their target customers – young professionals in village-like neighbourhoods crying out for proper Italian pizza.
“The name Zia Lucia (auntie Lucia) is not there as a coincidence: it is there for a reason,” they add.
What’s next, then? Well, first, a site in Stoke Newington next year. Vescovo and D’Angelo tell CODE fans send them pictures of available sites and one on Church Street proved promising. This might be some typical Italian exaggeration, but you know. Let’s ask them about ingredients for a little more razzmatazz.
“Sourcing of ingredients is of paramount importance for us,” the pair say.
“We select suppliers very carefully, go and visit them, try out their produce, see their production processes, and get to know them. We have food suppliers from Italy (cheese, cured meat) that we have been working with for several years.
“We supply all our wine from a very small supplier in Veneto. The beer is all supplied from the UK – we now make our own beer which is our own brand and taste, brewed by Laine in Brighton.”
Zia Lucia is not without its challenges. Obviously. The team says it’s done well to train and attract talent, but real pizzaiolos are not easily found, especially since Brexit and the pandemic hit.
“It’s definitely been a challenge for us – historically being a pizzaiolo is an art.
“Since Covid, we’ve seen a huge staff shortage, but our ‘Pizza Academy’ training programme has helped. We hired beginners, trained them, with guaranteed employment at the end.
“We use Italian 48-hour slow fermented doughs which are inspired by ancient traditions brought from across from Italy to London. Our menu continuously evolves to include new experimental doughs to keep things interesting.”