Eat this: Ardiciocca

London’s first gluten-, dairy- and sugar-free Italian restaurant, which claims not to compromise on taste.

12 April 2018
fermentedfree-fromitalianMediterraneannutritionrestaurant openingrestaurants
  • The gist: A free-from Italian restaurant with a focus on fermentation and alternative ingredients
  • The chef: Simona Ranieri
  • Location: 461- 465 North End Road, London SW6 1NZ
  • Food in 5 words: Healthy but not taste free
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How did we get here?

Roberto Costa and the team behind the Italian butchery with tables, Macellaio RC, are opening their fifth London restaurant, Aridiciocca.

Their chef, Simona Ranieri, is a coeliac with a love of good food and nutrition. She started waiting tables at her parent’s restaurant in Southern Italy when she was 13, then graduated up to the kitchen, before eventually becoming the executive chef.

Ranieri believes that no flavour, colour or texture should be compromised in the pursuit of healthy dining and that is part of her ethos for the gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free Italian restaurant.

For founder Costa, he says the finest ingredients should always be treated with a delicate touch and that natural flavours should speak for themselves. “We just need to enhance the flavours and make them shine, the treasure is already there,” he says.

Ardiciocca’s Paolina Antognetti tells Food Spark this concept is a first for London, particularly for an Italian restaurant and it offers a guilt-free meal for those looking to eat healthy or for those with intolerances.

The produce at the restaurant is selected from small farms and producers around the world, with the supply chain carefully traced.

What’s different about it?

Just because it’s free-from doesn’t mean it needs to boring, with Antognetti saying they wanted to add a rock and roll element to it.

“It’s not vegetarian – we have fish and meat, so that’s not boring as well. But we had to make it cool,” she explains.

“So some dishes you have to eat it with your hands, and these dishes are all organic and the food comes from the soil. The concept is, even if it’s free from everything, the food is not free from taste.”

There is a big focus on fermented vegetables and fruit, notes Antognetti.

This technique, which in Italy dates back to Roman times, transforms the flavour of vegetables, fruits and grains, whilst also increasing their nutritional value through the development of good enzymes, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and antioxidants. Many dishes on the menu have something fermented incorporated, from Jerusalem artichoke to carrots and sweet potato cream.

In an unusual twist, everything is also washed and cooked with alkaline water.

“It is a new trend,” according to Antognetti. “It’s a very expensive water, as we have to have very powerful filters to make it. It’s all about health. Everyone says now in your body your pH has to not be acidic, and this water helps a lot.”

You’ve got to try…

Artemide rice, fermented Sicilian lemon and thyme. Black in colour – a trend that was predicted to replace purple this year – artemide rice is aromatic and has an intense and pleasant aroma while cooking. Grains have an elongated shape and are reminiscent of wild rice. It is rich in iron and selenium and has antioxidant properties.

“The special thing about risotto is the wild rice is cooked in green tea and not in normal water. It is served with a butter made of smashed macadamia nuts with a crust of lemon on top,” says Antognetti.

There is also an almond tiramisu, which includes dates as a substitute for the sugar. Dates actually pop up a lot in the restaurant’s cooking, along with coconut.

Sparkie also likes…

Kombucha chicken, red sauerkraut, fermented sweet potatoes, baby leaves, violet cauliflower, fermented orange, seeds, pomegranate and spirulina cream.

That’s one dish, FYI, and it touches on a number of trends (perhaps too many?). Kombucha continues to be a big deal at the moment, along with fermented vegetables and algae. The latter is being used at restaurants around London, including with lamb, crab and in pizza bases.

Go if…

You want to see a number of trends collide or just need some free-from inspiration.

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