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Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant Renaissance Starts With Pasta and Pizza

The TV chef says Jamie’s Italian will go back to its “Italian roots”

Jamie Oliver’s restaurants collapsed, but the celebrity chef says Jamie’s Italian would have survived if it were posh
Jamie Oliver with the Wednesday special at Jamie’s Italian, carbonara
Ella Miller/for Jamie’s Italian

Today, TV chef Jamie Oliver who has faced a challenging 12 months of restaurant closures, business reshuffles and personnel changes, has launched a new summer menu in Jamie’s Italian restaurants across the UK. This year marks the tenth anniversary of Jamie’s Italian: A celebration that has been preceded by negative press coverage and a significant downturn in fortunes for casual restaurants on the high street.

But, the company says, Oliver will use the milestone to start anew. Or at least return to basics. “Jamie is taking the restaurants back to their Italian roots with a special summer menu full of his seasonal favourites,” an announcement today said. The new menu, which has reportedly been designed in consultation with a number of “listening groups,” will celebrate the Oliver’s “Italian journey over the last 10 years, and build on Jamie’s ever evolving love of Italian food.” It insists that the company will continue to work with high quality suppliers and that although prices will be reduced (by around eight percent on mains), “Jamie never compromises on standards.”

Jamie’s Italian use his long-time friend and collaborator, Gennaro Contaldo’s pasta recipe for the restaurant’s fresh pasta, which is made daily. Oliver and his business partners have also decided to place a new emphasis on pizza, across the restaurants. MCA reports that of the 25 restaurants nationwide, just five remain without a pizza oven. A spokesperson for the restaurant group told Eater today that they were “looking at putting pizza ovens into more of the UK sites following customer feedback. It is being explored as an option.”

Pizza at Jamie’s Italian is billed as “Light & crispy sourdough with artisan toppings” and can be ordered as a margherita, peperoni, mortadella, calabrese, or burrata.

Elsewhere, new dishes from the summer menu shared with Eater, include:

  • Lamb pappardelle: homemade fresh pasta made with slow-cooked lamb, red wine and herb ragù with fresh peas, pecorino and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Seafood linguine: fresh prawns, squid and scallops with cherry tomatoes, garlic, fennel tops, capers, anchovies and Calabrian chilli.
  • Lobster ravioli: pasta stuffed with lobster, prawns and langoustines and served in a creamy tomato sauce.
  • A brand new vegetarian menu will also launch in Jamie’s Italian from Monday 14 May. It will include: Casarecce puttanesca — fresh pasta with tomato and garlic sauce, with black olives, capers, extra virgin olive oil and “veggie Parmesan.” (Vegan without the cheese, natch.)
  • “Veggie carbonara” is one that “Jamie absolutely loves,” the announcement said. Fresh pasta with creamy sweet leek, pea and mint sauce, topped with lemon zest and that “veggie Parmesan,” too.
  • Sicilian-style cauliflower: A whole baby cauliflower, slow roasted with Sicilian spices, served with a lentil ragù, pomegranate and pine nuts.

Jon Knight, the CEO of Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, said:

“The new summer menu at Jamie’s Italian reflects everything that is core to our brand — delicious new Italian dishes, impeccably sourced to Jamie’s very high standards, all with a distinctive Jamie twist.

“Jamie has been right at the heart of the new menu and he’s also driven our new look and feel menu. We’ve simplified everything and our new look is clean and elegant with some bright, fun touches.”

Knight added that, in addition to the new vegetarian menu, there will be a new vegan menu, too — a move, which acknowledges widespread new dining habits and the mainstreaming of veganism.

“We’re also introducing a brand new vegetarian and vegan menu and of course our kids’ menu remains the most popular and nutritionally balanced on the high street,” Knight said. “I believe these two new menus offer high-street diners a real point of difference — tasty Italian food that has the best provenance and quality credentials.”

It would appear that Oliver has reinstated himself at the core of the restaurant business and surrounded himself with financiers who can re-stabilise the company. Whether these subtle shifts will guard against future closures — amid ongoing challenges faced by the casual dining sector — remains to be seen.