What: An Italian restaurant and late-night bar from French operators on the site where Red’s True Barbecue tried - and failed - to conquer the capital. It is described by its founders as “probably the least Brexit-compatible restaurant in the UK”.
Who: The French operators in question are Big Mamma Group, owners of a number of lively trattorias in Paris - East Mamma, Ober Mamma, Mamma Primi, Big Love, Pizzeria Popolare, Pink Mamma and La Felicità - dubbed the biggest restaurant in Europe - as well as La Bellezza in Lille. Big Mamma’s Victor Lugger and Tigrane Seydoux exploded onto the Paris scene six years with their cult, quirky restaurants that were a breath of fresh air in the French capital, which had been short on Italian casual dining options, and are presumably hoping to have the same impact over here.
The Food: The huge, all-day menu covers similar ground to existing casual-dining chains with sections for cured meats, antipasti and cicchetti, pasta and pizza. Some dishes – including spaghetti carbonara and seafood risotto – are available in large portions to share. Surprisingly, prices are remarkably similar to those at the big Italian chains, with most pizza and pasta dishes £11 to £15. Most dishes are played with a fairly straight bat, but the team is not afraid to bastardise: the classic Roman dish of artichokes alla giudia is served with a sauce inspired by cacio e pepe. While that dish also comes from the Italian capital, combining the two on the same plate would be considered heresy by most Italians.
The Vibe: the 160-cover restaurant reflects the aesthetic of 1970s Capri – and a self-consciously irreverent menu will help Gloria stand out from the crowd (there’s a dish entitled Filippo’s Big Balls and one of the pizzas is named in honour of a porn website). It’s a look that has gone down well with the critics so far, with Fay Maschler saying it “fulfils that restaurant function of transportation to another world, a genial one, cheerfully fictitious in parts but wholly well meaning and, importantly, not a rip-off.”
And another thing: Big Mamma isn’t stopping there. The group has earmarked another site for a “different Italian format” in Fitzrovia, which is due to open in the coming few months.
54-56 Great Eastern St, London