Inside the Italian restaurant with a difference coming to Hampstead

Man and woman sat at dinner table in Italian restaurant with glasses of water and a terracotta exposed brick wall behind them

Founder Igor and head of social media Marziana in Rossodisera Covent Garden. - 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.

Tiramisu and mixed baked cakes and biscuits to dip in Vino Cotto, a fortified wine from Le Marche.

Tiramisu and mixed baked cakes and biscuits to dip in Vino Cotto, a fortified wine from Le Marche. - Credit: Frankie Lister-Fell

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. 

Man and woman at dining table in italian restaurant holding cookbooks

Marziana and Igor became friends and later colleagues. - Credit: Frankie Lister-Fell

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.

Wine bottles of various sizes on shelf by exposed brick wall

Under the streets of Covent Garden, a slice of Italy awaits. - Credit: Frankie Lister-Fell

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.

Deep-fried Custard Cream & Pork and chicken-filled olives.

The most famous dish from Le Marche, Olive e Cremini fritti all’ascolana. - Credit: Frankie Lister-Fell

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.

Chestnut flour tagliatelle, wild mushrooms (portobello, chestnut, oyster, shitake), chilli and confit tomatoes.

Tagliatelle di Castagne ai funghi: Chestnut flour tagliatelle, wild mushrooms (portobello, chestnut, oyster, shitake), chilli and confit tomatoes. - Credit: Frankie Lister-Fell