ASK operator Azzurri backs new fast-casual pizza concept

By Mark Wingett

- Last updated on GMT

ASK operator Azzurri backs new fast-casual pizza concept

Related tags: Italian cuisine, Pizza

Azzurri Group, the operator of ASK Italian and Zizzi, is backing the launch of a new fast-casual pizza concept called Radio Alice, which will open its first site in Hoxton Square this December. 

According to BigHospitality's sister publication MCA Insight​ the Steve Holmes-led group is investing in the new concept, which is the brainchild of brothers Salvatore and Matteo Aloe, who operate the five-strong, critically acclaimed Berbere pizzeria concept in Italy, with plans to eventually create a new growth brand.

Azzurri, which last year acquired Coco Di Mama, the then six-strong Italian grab-and-go concept, and the brothers have joined forces with Emma King, co-founder of Gail’s Bakery, who will oversee the new venture.

Holmes told MCA​ that the company had “a couple of irons in the fire on further sites” but was focused on making a success of its debut unit. Holmes told MCA​: “Radio Alice complements our existing business and we think there is an opportunity to create a Radio Alice brand.” 

“The other main reason we are excited about Radio Alice, is that it will work out of 1,500 sq ft units – it is A3 but could be half of the size of a usual ASK or Zizzi site. It is a fast casual pizzeria concept, with limited menus and very high-quality ingredients. There is lots of growth still available for ASK and Zizzi but what this does is balance our portfolio nicely and gives us further access to some fast-growing markets.”

“The two founders have been successfully working on the product for six years and have developed hugely successful, acclaimed restaurants, with a proven product, whilst Emma knows the London market better than anyone and has experience in running small businesses. It is a quality led product that is competitively priced.”

The group has not invested in the brothers’ Italian business, but will import a lot of the ingredients for Radio Alice from Italy.

The name derives from a pirate radio station that was set up in Bologna in the 1970s and “gave a voice to whoever wanted to be heard”.

“You’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of it, it was the soundtrack to Bologna’s counterculture,” said Salvatore Aloe. “Radio Alice was fiercely Italian and deeply rooted in the rebellious. Their proud spirit and unconventional approach have always been an inspiration to us, and we hope today’s Radio Alice Hoxton will be much the same.”

‘We want our food to reflect that attitude,” said Matteo Aloe. “So the ingredients are from traditional organic and slow food producers in Italy and Britain. But the combinations have a modern vibe: anchovies, red onion, lemon zest and tomato; gorgonzola, speck, honey fiordilatte and walnuts; prosciutto di Parma, burrata, orange zest and fiordilatte. If it feels right, it is right.”

'Fantastic product'

Alongside the pizzas will be a short menu of piccoli, and house made dolci. There will also be a selection of Italian organic wines, including a bag and box wine from Libera Terra, a co-operative set up on land liberated from mafia control. The concept’s beer selection will feature La Bassa, the brothers’ bespoke collaboration with Brew Fist in Italy, and a pale ale from London’s Kernel Brewery.

Holmes told MCA​: “Azzurri can be an enabler for people, we don’t want to be another big company having a go at developing the next big thing that doesn’t have any soul, substance or authority to be successful.

“All successful brands have a strong vision, they execute it really well and make it their passion. We like and share the values of these conviction businesses. When we met Daniel and Jeremy (Land and Sanders, co-founder of Coco Di Mama) we got excited by their vision and their product.  They are clear on what they stand for, what we can be is a catalyst for them to grow, to support them and give them access to our experience and our network. It is the same with Radio Alice.”

“When we first heard about it from a friend and we went to check it out and thought the product was fantastic. They wanted to come to London, but didn’t know anything about the market or the property scene. They had the product, passion and the energy. They met Emma and we started talking about the opportunity.

“As with Coco Di Mama we provide back office support, a network, the capital. They don’t have to worry about distractions like corporate issues or legal problems, they can just get on with finding a beautiful site, building it the way they want it and focus on the brand and ultimately the product we deliver to the customer. We will import a lot of the ingredients from Italy. The dough is the real hero of the product, the ingredients are almost all organic, certified slow food.”

“Salvatore and Matteo’s mission is how to raise the quality of pizza but make it accessible to everyone. We are looking forward to helping them with that.”

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