Gloria is kitsch and over the top, but in all the right ways. From the moment you walk in, it feels like you’re in an old school trattoria in Italy, with the smell of nonna’s cooking in the air and hosts greeting you with a loud and friendly ‘buona sera’.
You’ll think: ‘Toto, we’re not in Shoreditch anymore’ for the rest of the evening. And this feeling doesn’t just come from the genuinely upbeat and slightly silly Italian waiters; the food is also as authentic as it gets.
Start with some cicchetti (Italian-style tapas) while you come to terms with the oversized menu. Get around the deep-fried courgette flowers with a cheesy anchovy dip for a slight twist on a classic.
And, if they have it on the menu, you can’t turn down the opportunity to sample one of their deep-fried artichokes. This is a traditional Jewish-Italian dish which should be better known. You’ll be ordering one each, rather than one to share.
You can’t do Italian dining in London without tucking into some burrata; it is so in vogue right now and the Gloria team are well aware of this. They have three different burrata starters. Either get the classic burrata cremosa, the smoked iteration, or the one stuffed with fresh herbs and tomatoes.
Our favourite is the smoked burrata, made up entirely of the ‘heart’. You get a huge bowl full of gooey cheesy goodness covered in olive oil. Cheese dreams are certainly made of this.
For mains, you can get some fine-looking Napoletana-style pizzas, but we think good pizza is fairly easy to get in London – great pasta, on the other hand, is a rare find. Home-style dining is best represented in these pasta dishes, too. Diners can order huge pasta sharing platters just like in many classic Italian trattorias.
For added theatrics order the carbonara, which gets tossed around in a big wheel of pecorino cheese before being delicately twisted on to plates – it’s made for Instagram boomeranging. The truffle pasta is another huge win, coming in a creamy mascarpone sauce full of black Molise truffles and button mushrooms.
But the very best thing on the menu has got to be the girella. We could eat this every day of the week. It’s a long, handmade, snail-shaped ravioli filled with polenta and either rabbit or veal ragout, depending on the day. Extra meaty sauce and broad beans are then layered underneath for extra deliciousness. It is a superb modern take on a simple ravioli.
Be sure to wash all of this down with some of the carefully chosen wines which are, of course, all from Italy. Failing that, get stuck into some of Gloria’s cocktails. The Truffle Negroni will confuse just as much as it will delight you.
It is topped with a truffle foam which you taste first. It immediately makes your mind think it should be eating something savoury but then the gin, vermouth and Campari additions mix around on the pallet. We liked it. But we were also a bit bamboozled by it all – sometimes it is good to be challenged, right?
A slightly safer option comes in the form of the Spritz Veneziano, made from Bitter Select, Plymouth thyme gin, Cinzano prosecco, sparkling water, blood orange bitter, and olives. It’s what you’d be ordering in Venice as you sit up at the famous Cicchetti bars.
Finish the whole experience with some tiramisu and lemon pie – because there is always room for dessert, even after indulging in Gloria’s large portions. The tiramisu comes out in a large tray from which the waiter scoops generous spoonfuls of chocolatey, creamy, coffee goodness into your bowl. It isn’t the greatest tiramisu ever created, but it definitely hits the spot.
The lemon pie, however, is a huge masterpiece. The silky (not crunchy) Italian meringue is sugary heaven rising nearly six inches above lemony curd. Pair it with some homemade limoncello and sink into one of the cushioned banquettes as you slowly fall into a food coma.
You’ll get treated just as you would when visiting your mate’s family in Italy; homey indulgence at its finest.
54-56 Great Eastern Street EC2A 3Q