Angelina: Fusion food and a phone-free bar at new Dalston restaurant

Angelina in Dalston will serve a fusion of Italian and Japanese plates.

Angelina in Dalston will serve a fusion of Italian and Japanese plates. - Credit: Archant

With an intriguing mix of European and Asian fare, Angelina Restaurant will also feature a secret bar with space for no more than six guests. It’s due to open for a soft launch from Thursday, February 14.

Josh Owens-Baigler (furthest right) is the owner of the new venture on Dalston Lane.

Josh Owens-Baigler (furthest right) is the owner of the new venture on Dalston Lane. - Credit: Archant

“I eat antipasti twice, just because she is so nice; Angelina.” Louis Prima’s 1946 song, about the waitress at the pizzeria, is what the latest restaurant to open in Dalston is named after.

“It’s one of my dad’s favourite songs and it was always on in the car as a kid,” laughs Josh Owens-Baigler, owner of the shiny new Angelina Restaurant preparing to officially open in Dalston Lane from February 20.

“It’s an American/Italian jazz song which kept popping up in my life. When I was in Italy (for a year, at the age of 16), I lived with four Neapolitans – and they understood the second part of the song!

“The song is Italian, it’s about a restaurant, and so I suppose (naming his restaurant Angelina) was a bit of fun – an inside joke.”

The restaurant will offer a regularly rotating eight-plate menu.

The restaurant will offer a regularly rotating eight-plate menu. - Credit: Archant

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This new eatery, located close to Dalston Junction, is promising ‘a surreal exploration of Japanese and Italian cuisines, cultures and influences.’ Head chef Daniele Ceforo – a native of Rome with experience at Bocca di Lupo and Zoio – will use fresh ingredients and traditional techniques while preparing an eight-plate sharing menu, which will change regularly.

“We want the Angelina experience to be fun, friendly and above all a social occasion,” adds Owens-Baigler.

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“On top of our sharing menu, we’ll also serve a daily plate which will offer an affordable, quick, express meal.”

An early look at the menu includes Unagi risotto with burnt soy butter & dashi; cavolo nero, tonkotsu, egg & keta caviar; and black sesame & milk chocolate panna cotta as sample dishes. The set menu is £48pp, while the Chef’s Choice Daily Plate will range from £9 to £12. But what convinced Owens-Baigler and his team to create this Italian-Japanese hybrid?

“It was a bit of a labour of love. Our background is in Italian restaurants – I personally trained at River Café, our head chef is from Rome and our sous chef, Robin, also spent a lot of time around Italian food as well. We all have this deep-rooted passion for the simplicity and homeliness of Italian food.

“Then, almost by accident, I got absolutely taken in by Japanese food. For a long time it was slightly inaccessible, but now we are seeing Japanese ingredients used in exciting ways. Our passion for Japanese food grew in spare-time eating, and the idea has evolved over time.

“We knew the ingredients, we’re passionate about raw fish, and we started to see synergy (between Italian and Japanese cuisine) everywhere.”

The 40-cover restaurant has been designed in ‘Japanese avant-garde fashion’ by Anna Owens Designs – Owens-Baigler’s mum. Angelina will also feature a secret cocktail bar with space for just six people, where the focus is on cocktails and wine.

“We were in Japan to primarily research the food,” explains Owens-Baigler, “and we ended up in a district called Shinjuku, where there are over 300 bars located in three streets.

“We were just blown away. Each of the bars is usually themed – one might serve whiskey, the next could be a karaoke bar – and that intimate bar vibe is really missing in London.

“The bar is a bit of a creative outlet, it offers a bit more fun to what we do. We didn’t want to make it bookable or publicise it too much (he laughs at the irony of telling a journalist), it’s only six seats. It’s actually on the way to the bathrooms.”

In a refreshing change, Angelina’s bar – Golden Gai – will also be a phone-free zone.

“There’s this trend at the moment of less screen time: less phone-time at the dinner table, or on dates, or before bed. I think, more than that, it’s a sad thing if you can’t do anything without being photographed or captured in some way; there is very little space where you can be free and do whatever you like.

“That was prevalent at the Golden Gai in Tokyo and we want people to let their hair down (at their bar). It’s about an experience rather than the image. We don’t want it being on social media, or being photographed, we want people to hear about it via word of mouth and think ‘that’s something we have to go and try.’”

Angelina Restaurant will have a soft launch between February 14 and 17, before officially opening on February 20. 56 Dalston Lane, E8 3AH. More details here.

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