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‘I went to the London restaurant where they make you prepare and serve your own food and it was actually a brilliant experience’ – Ellen Jenne

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The very idea of having a restaurant which lives by a “zero” ethos should terrify customers, especially when this includes certain courses that have zero service, zero cutlery and zero sugar. Yes, you did read that correctly.

0.0steria is a one-off pop-up brought to life by the brains at Peroni, for the launch of their all new zero per cent lager – Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0%. Housed in Islington’s Radici for 24 hours only on Tuesday April 19, customers can experience a dinner unlike any other. Sheltering from the rain, the pre-launch of Peroni’s beer was incredibly inviting. Radici’s authentic Italian trattoria interior transported me out of north London and onto the streets of Rome.

As I read “It all starts with zero” at the top of the menu I was intrigued, but I hadn’t prepared for what lay ahead. While I accepted it wasn’t going to be a heavy night on the booze, I was mystified by the reality of having a “zero service” course.

READ MORE:‘I visited London’s ‘best pub’ on a wet Monday lunchtime and despite looking like an ‘old man’s pub’ it was a perfect oasis’

‘It all starts with zero’

However, it soon became clear what would be in store for us when celebrity chef Francesco Mazzei, who personally designed the menu, asked for four participants to join him in the kitchen. The chance to “work” alongside one of the most well known Calabrian chefs in London? It was a no brainer.

This was where the “no service” part of the meal kicked in. Following Francesco’s instruction, we carefully plated our “Zero Service Cicchetti” made up of vegetable fritto misto. For the starter we had fried cauliflower, courgette and its flower, aubergine, asparagus, thinly sliced purple potato crisps, gorgeous fried sage, a sprinkling of salt and a healthy splodge of vegan watercress mayo.

The idea of not being served my meal didn’t phase me in the slightest. I was rubbing chef whites with a leading Italian culinary genius?! How many guests can say they’ve done this? Not many, I can tell you that for free.

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Was my plate Michelin star-worthy?

I ferried my board of fritto misto back to the table, where I dug in immediately. Each vegetable was perfectly crisp and crunchy, just what you want from fried food. As I took each bite, the veg expelled a spine tingling crack (in a positive way), no sign of sogginess anywhere.

For the second course “Zero Cutlery Starter” we were given Pinsa with Roasted Garlic. This in essence was a vegan “cheesy” garlic bread showered with shaved truffle. The first truffles of spring Francisco informed us, meaning we were the first to enjoy the taste of the new season.

The Pinsa was unbelievably rich, teetering on the brink of overwhelming with each mouthful I took. Sharing the bread between two, we were encouraged to eat with our hands and feel the food we were eating.

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The pinsa flipped the script on vegan “cheezy” garlic bread

Garlic bread is always a winner, so it only felt right the dish be included on the five-course menu. It gave the dinner a rustic flair. From one carb dish to another, the “Zero Colour Pasta” was by far the most intriguing part for me.

You cannot visit an Italian trattoria and not at least have a single mouthful of pasta, even if this means sharing with you friends. As the all-black plate landed in front of me, I was taken in by the silky sheets of black ravioli.

If I hadn’t known it was pasta before it arrived in front of me, I could’ve mistaken it for food they might serve on an alien spaceship. Upon closer inspection (and under the light of several torches) I spied a faint “Peroni” logo on the edges of the ravioli. They were very faint, but they were there.

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All black everything

The filling was made from mushrooms, and to get the jet black effect both the veg and the pasta dough were mixed with charcoal to give it its striking appearance. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a meal which was completely colourless, muted maybe, but certainly not “Zero Colour”.

The concept was fun and playful, and it brought the concept of “zero” to life. Part of me wishes all meals could be vibrant or void of any colour whatsoever.

I didn’t want to stop eating. The pasta was cooked wonderfully al dente and its filling was packed full of flavour. I definitely wouldn’t mind having the dish again.

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This is what lie behind the eye mask

What came next was literally blinding. An eye mask landed in front of each of us, and we were instructed to put them on for the fourth course. The “Zero Sight Main” offered very little description on the menu, just the words “Roasted vegetable tartlet”.

As we waited for the dish to be served, Francesco asked us to identify the ingredients which went into the tart, specifically what the tart shell was made from. Eye mask on and we were ready to go. I imagined this is what it would be like eating at Dans Le Noir?

I could easily identify the aubergine and tomato filling, but I couldn’t make out what the sauce was or the shell. Francesco revealed the sauce was vegan cheese and the tart itself was a fried pasta sheet. I was baffled but beyond intrigued. Who would’ve thought to use pasta as a tart case?

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Can you believe there’s no sugar in this tiramisu?

To round off the dinner, a Zero Sugar Tiramisu was on the menu. Zero sugar? Surely you can’t serve a dessert without it? That’s got to go against everything sweet treats stand for, no?

The very idea of it sounds wrong. It felt wrong to me, anyway. My Italian next door neighbour couldn’t comprehend how Francesco would be able to make an actual tiramisu without mascarpone, and the more I thought about it, I couldn’t understand it either.

Served on a platter worthy of an Italian banquet, the tiramisu were enviably attractive. Garnished with a generous amount of bitter cocoa powder and dressed with a shard of equally bitter chocolate, the mound of pudding was a delight. Light, airy, and oh-so indulgent – even with the vegan mascarpone.

There’s a skill to being able to recreate iconic desserts completely free-from all of its core ingredients. It’s a skill not many people can master, but boy did Francesco out-do himself. If no one told me there was zero added sugar to the pud, I wouldn’t have known any different.

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It all ends with zero

0.0steria showed off the best of free from cooking, rewriting the script on what it means to cook without all the bells and whistles. Vegan and free from food doesn’t have to be lacklustre and dull, and Francesco’s menu proved that.

Everyone at the table marvelled at the food, being constantly amazed by each course we tucked in to. I almost forgot I was there to celebrate the launch of Peroni’s zero per cent beer. There was a sense of humour throughout the meal, which lingered right until the end when we were handed our receipt – a total of £0.00. Not only did Peroni shine a light on non alcohol beer, but Francesco gave a platform to exciting zero cooking.

Limited tickets for 0.0steria are available at zero cost for Tuesday, April 19. Normal service resumes at Radici on Wednesday, April 20.

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https://www.mylondon.news/whats-on/food-drink-news/peroni-radici-zero-percent-restaurant-23724791