Inside the Italian restaurant with a difference coming to Hampstead
- Credit: Frankie Lister-Fell
Deep-fried custard, baked aniseed donuts and terracotta walls imported straight from the Italian countryside – a special dining experience is coming to Hampstead.
Rossodisera in Covent Garden is the only restaurant in the UK specialising in food from Le Marche, a region in central Italy.
The Hampstead restaurant will be at 70 Heath Street, in the former Pizza Express.
A full launch date has not yet been set, and while the restaurant's interior is being revamped, owner Igor Iacopini intends to open for delivery, and later shopping services (cheeses and more than 300 wines from Le Marche), for Hampstead residents this month.
In 2007, Igor moved to London and opened the restaurant with his flatmates from university.
"We thought the produce from Le Marche was very underrated outside of the region," he said, and he is clearly passionate about the region's rich history and food.
Wanting to create an authentic experience, since 2010 all of Igor's staff have been recruited from the region.
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"They already know the cuisine and the products, so it's easy to explain to the customers and everything is authentic," he said.
The restaurant's social media lead, Marzia Castelli, began as a regular customer at Rossodisera. She missed the food from her hometown and came every Saturday.
All ingredients are imported from the region, and even the sand-coloured walls at the Covent Garden restaurant were shipped over, having come from Igor's father's 19th-century house in the countryside. They will also feature in the Hampstead restaurant, along with a big green door from a building in the city centre of Igor's home town. Empty bottles of wine from Le Marche will become lamps.
But Igor has had to rethink his restaurant's strategy. Brexit has meant employing people from his region is challenging and the pandemic has dampened the bustle of central London.
"There are no tourists or customers. The last three years were a nightmare," Igor said.
Now he hopes to reach new customers in Hampstead with specialities including cremini; breaded deep-fried custard typical of the south of Le Marche; and olives stuffed with parmesan, chicken and pork that are also breaded and deep-fried.
The tiramisu recipe has been adapted repeatedly to achieve the "perfect" creamy consistency and even distribution of cocoa. And the fresh mushroom tagliatelle is a vegetarian option.