Radio Alice, named after a 1970s Italian pirate radio station in Bologna, was set up at the end of 2016. The menu proclaims its dedication to producing quality pizzas. They use imported stoneground wholemeal flour for the dough, tomatoes from a partnership of organic farmers in Italy, mozzarella from Puglia – you get the idea. The restaurant was set up by two brothers, Matteo and Salvatore Aloe, who established several restaurants in Italy before joining up with Emma King (co-founder of Gail’s bakery) to plot a move to London. A further branch in Clapham is already planned for the summer of 2017. There are a few seats on the terrace overlooking Hoxton Square, as well as an airy dining room with very loud music playing, and an overflow area upstairs.
There was a short wine list, which couldn’t be bothered to list the vinatges, a pet peeve of mine. Prices ranged from £19 to £40, with for example Olmo Valturio at £30 compared to its shop price of roughly £8. A salad of mozzarella and tomato and just a hint of basil had no apparent dressing of olive oil, nor any obvious seasoning. The tomatoes almost entirely lacked flavour and the mild flavour of the mozzarella continued the bland theme. This badly needed something: salt, pepper, olive oil, a dressing, but was just a few slices of tomato and cheese put in a bowl and priced at £6 (8/20).
I tried a pizza of pork sausage, lemon thyme, tomato and Parmesan (£9.90). Seemingly the pizza base is cooked first, and then the toppings added, for reasons that elude me. This approach to pizza is known as apparently known as “pizza gourmet”. For all the loving details on the menu about the flour, the base was dry, thick and dull with none of the bubbling, blistered char that a good pizza base from a really hot oven might have. To be fair the style of base is intended to be thicker and crunchier than a Naples style pizza, but it should not be as hard and dry as this was.
The pizza was pre-sliced and then reassembled on the plate with gaps between each slice, which had the effect of making it look bigger that it really was. The tomato sauce had, for all the blurb on the menu, little discernble flavour, and the main flavour came from the chill oil that I requested, which, incredibly, incurs an extra charge (barely 10/20).
A pizza of baked potato with pancetta and mozzarella with asiago cheese (a cow milk cheese from Veneto) was an odd combination of toppings. The thin slices of pancetta and the cheese did not have enough flavour to overcome the inherent blandness of the baked potato. The base had the same issues as my pizza (9/20). A cup of coffee was decent, though not quite hot.
Service was from a cheerful Australian waitress, the bill coming to £18 a head with no alcohol. The pizzas here are priced at more than 20% higher than, for example, Franco Manca despite being a lot smaller in size and vastly inferior in quality. This felt to me like a pretty cynical affair, with a menu written with a careful eye for marketing, but with no discernible follow up in the kitchen. Writing a back-story for your restaurant and saying on the menu how authentic you are is all very well, but you then have to actual deliver a product that matches the rhetoric, and this simply did not happen here at this meal . As they say in Texas, this for me was a place that was “all hat and no cattle”.