The global company, founded in 2003, already operates in markets including the USA, Spain and Turkey but the 3,500sq.ft site near Piccadilly Circus is the first full-scale site in the UK for the brand which focuses on produce and recipes from the Campania region of Italy including buffalo mozzarella and meat.
A restaurant under the same name and related to the Italian company had previously operated on a small-scale in Hampstead Heath but is no longer open and the Shaftesbury Avenue site is considered by the business to be the first full-scale attempt to break the UK market.
Speaking to BigHospitality, Vincenzo Oliveri, director at Fratelli la Bufala, said the company had chosen now to make its UK debut with the belief that the country was lifting itself out of recession and the Olympics would help speed up the process.
"We want to be there before the economy is booming again. Also we feel there are not many real Italian chains in England and there is a market for it. We have got all these English companies that do Italian food - there is nothing wrong with them but it is not really original or traditional Italian cooking or food," he said
The situation, Oliveri claimed, had changed in the last decade when many authentic Italian restaurants had been forced to close with the growing demand for an uncomplicated offering while Fratelli la Bufala is able to provide a modern service and style with a traditional menu.
However Oliveri said the potential for restaurants serving authentic Italian options had grown with TV programmes, travel and events such as the food festival La Dolce Vita highlighting the subtlety of Italian cooking which varies greatly from region to region as opposed to having one homogenized identity.
The business does not operate a central kitchen, unlike some restaurant chains, and chooses to make the food fresh on the premises. The menu features Neapolitan pizza containing buffalo mozzarella flown in twice a week so is never older than three days.
The Shaftesbury Avenue site opened on 27 March and is currently attracting the number of people Oliveri had been expecting to serve after a month. Jonathan Moradoff, associate director at Davis Coffer Lyons, helped complete the sale and said: "Any leisure operator would be hard pressed to find a location with a better footfall than that of Shaftesbury Avenue in London’s theatre and entertainment District."
The company is now following a long-term plan for the UK which sees it hoping to expand within London, with new sites already being targeted, before taking the brand further in the country. The plan is for owned and managed sites for the first two years before considering a franchise scheme, which the business does operate in other markets.
"We are starting in central London because it has so many people and so many more people come to London. When we want to go to different cities I think we need to have an established number in London first. But yes, there is a plan to go all over England," Oliveri said.