L’Anima — the high-end Italian restaurant situated in a glass box development where the City ends and Shoreditch starts — ran its final service last night. The restaurant, which was celebrated for its refined, regional “Italian fine dining,” under the direction of head chef Francesco Mazzei, opened in 2008. Mazzei left the company to join the D&D Restaurant Group in 2015.
Though the closure appeared sudden and was not formerly announced, L’Anima’s owner, Peter Marano, told Eater in a call today that the move had in fact been planned for six months. The now familiar narrative of rising costs, wages and rates — plus, in his case, Government legislation which impacted expenses accounts and client entertaining in the financial sector — were given as the reasons which forced him into making the decision to consolidate.
L’Anima Café, the more casual sister site next door, will be redesigned to incorporate a new “discreet fine dining restaurant,” Marano said. It means that the business would no longer have to foot the costs of two sites, with two kitchens and two teams. The new space, which will feature many of the dishes from L’Anima cooked by executive head chef Lello Favuzzi, will be 64 covers; the café will be reconfigured to accommodate 140.
Marano confirmed that there will be redundancies, though every member of staff (who knew about the closure in advance) worked up until the final service last night. He said that seven of the 30 members of L’Anima staff will be transferred over to the new iteration of L’Anima Café, including Favuzzi.
“It is sad,” Marano admitted. “But it’s more important to make [the business] sustainable for the long-term.”
Longtime supporter of the restaurant, Bloomberg’s Richard Vines, tweeted the “truly sad news” last night, saying, “[L’Anima] is closing tonight after 10 years serving some of the best Italian food in Europe. It has always been a favorite [sic] London restaurant.” Remarks that drew at least one withering quote retweet, though a number of others shared Vines’ sadness.
Ten years ago, opening on the very edge of what qualifies as the City of London, L’Anima was among the very first restaurants that acted as a gateway to Shoreditch. Its opening coincided with the beginning of so many new and critically-acclaimed restaurants opening in the (now post-trendy) east London neighbourhood.
Vines told Eater that the reason he felt L’Anima was so special was because it introduced a new style of Italian cooking to London.
“I took [Osteria Francescana head chef] Massimo Bottura there once and he said he’d never tasted such good Italian food in a restaurant outside Italy,” he said. “I always found the dishes inventive and beautiful. When L’Anima opened, southern Italian ingredients such as nduja were little known in the UK.
“Francesco Mazzei was a pioneer when L’Anima opened,” Vines added.
Mazzei’s former sous chef, Favuzzi, was promoted to head chef in 2015. Vines, who also posted a video to Instagram last night, also stated that Favuzzi will move over to L’Anima Café.
Truly sad news: @LanimaLondon is closing tonight after 10 years serving some of the best Italian food in Europe. It has always been a favorite London restaurant. The good news is that @LelloFavuzzi will serve some L'Anima dishes in @LAnimacafe, which is getting an upgrade. pic.twitter.com/YLeowHTwUh— Richard Vines (@Richardvines) February 28, 2018
It is understood that a number of other restaurant closures will be announced this month as rent reviews (and likely increases) take place — which, since business rates increased a year ago, have become unmanageable for many operators. In addition, quarterly rent agreements are signed and VAT payments are due, which will clarify for the financial status of businesses in the city.