Love Gloria? Can’t stop scoffing pasta at Circolo Popolare?

We don’t blame you.

But now there’s a brand new offering in town: their little brother Ave Mario.

Frenchman Victor Lugger, of the irreverent Big Mamma Group, tells us all about their third soon-to-open destination restaurant.

When you opened your first UK outpost, Gloria, in Shoreditch in 2019, did you imagine you’d be on to restaurant number three in under three years?

No, but as a restaurateur you’re always looking for new locations. Back then I had the opportunity for the location for Gloria, then soon after for Circolo Popolare [in Fitzrovia] but I’ve seen hundreds of bad potential sites since then, so nothing was guaranteed.

Is your new Covent Garden venture, Ave Mario, the biggest yet?

Well, I always say it’s not about the size but what you do with it! Yes, this one is big — we can seat 295 people — but it has lots of different elements to it. I fell in love with the site when I saw it pre-Covid.

It’s a heritage building that covers about 7,000sq ft, and it has dozens of nooks and crannies, an absolutely crazy basement, an indoor courtyard and two terraces.

What about the decor and the vibe?

I’d call this very Tuscan — think a traditional osteria but with a twist. We’ve tried to build a restaurant that is both grand, because it’s a huge space, but at the same time very homely, warm and welcoming.

There will be striped walls and religious iconography, in a nod to Florence and the Duomo, and our cocktail bar will be decorated with hundreds of bottles, like the walls in Circolo Popolare.

And what about the food?

The menu will have classic dishes made with curated ingredients we buy direct from producers in Italy. You’ll find carbonara pasta but in the form of the filling of a 30cm-wide raviolo.

We’ve worked hard on our pizzas to make them even thinner and crispier than Neapolitan ones. And, of course, there will be some spectacular desserts.

Are you relieved hospitality is getting back to normal?

I’ve never been so thrilled to see people flooding back to restaurants. One of the main ingredients of a restaurant is the clientele — they help create the vibe.

Hopefully, we have created somewhere people from all walks of life want to go, from foodies to families, friends, couples, groups…

We want them all to eat great food, and absorb all the memories and atmospheres of Italy that we try to immerse our guests in.

Ave Mario, 15 Henrietta St, WC2, opens on July 2. Click here to find out more

Still hungry? Check out these new bites

Rudie’s Jerk Shack

Rudie’s Jerk Shack in Brixton Village launches a new bottomless Rum Punch brunch this weekend.

Try ackee and saltfish, lamb sausages, butter beans and sautéed spinach. Soak it up with Rum Punch, using Kingston 62 and Wray & Nephew rums.

£26.50 pp, Saturday & Sunday,

Gail’s Bakery

Gail’s Bakery has introduced a made-to-order breakfast and brunch menu to its UK outlets.

Think soft-boiled eggs with toasted soldiers, hot oat-milk porridge and toasties (like The Reuben, with pastrami and sauerkraut).

Visit their website for details

Borough Market

For the first time in modern history, Borough Market will open on Sundays. There’ll be delicious, sustainable produce seven days a week, with over 40 traders offering fresh meat, fish, fruit and veg, bread and baked goods.

From June 27, 10am to 2pm.

Visit their website for details

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