Rome native Alice is new to the street food scene, having founded Mezzo Italian just last year after moving to London. With fond memories of hours spent cooking with her Nonna in the kitchen, Alice took the decision to share her favourite family recipes with the wider public and hasn’t looked back since. We caught up with Alice to find out how things are going…
Hi Alice, thanks so much for chatting to us. Tell us about your background – when did you set up the business & what inspired you to do so?
I was born and raised in Rome, Italy, where I lived (with a couple of gap years overseas) for the first 30 years of my life – I’m 33 now.
I was always passionate about cooking and I started helping my Nonna in the kitchen since I can remember. We would spend hours together in the kitchen making all of her favourite recipes and creating the best memories I have to this day.
I graduated in Law when I was 24 and after a year abroad I started working as a lawyer in Rome for 5-6 years. Then on Valentine’s Day 2014, during a weekend in London, I met my fiancée, Josh. We fell in love and we started a long distance relationship.
After about 3 years I took the leap, quit my job and moved to London where, after some research, at the beginning of 2020 I started Mezzo – Italian Street Food LTD.
As I said, I always loved cooking and while attending university I worked as Sous-Chef. It’s always been a dream of mine to open a restaurant, so I thought street food was a good starting point.
What a beautiful story! So how does Mezzo differ from other Italian street food businesses?
My main goal and concern is to bring to people in London (and in the UK) the real Italian experience. I exclusively create food that I, and people back home, would eat..
When people try my food I want it to remind them of holidays in Italy and good times. Above all, it needs to taste authentic. I don’t believe in cutting corners when it comes to fresh produce and I do my best to make sure that every single one of my dishes is made as it would back home. No compromises.
You definitely won’t find Spaghetti Meatballs at Mezzo, but our Tiramisu is the most authentic you’ll ever have!
Who doesn’t love tiramisu! How did you go about setting up during Covid-19? What were the biggest hurdles for you?
Unfortunately, Covid-19 hit the UK as soon as we got the business running and I’m not going to lie, it got a bit depressing at that stage.
In July 2020, when the first lockdown ended, we were able to get a few gigs going and that has definitely been a morale booster. Things were looking pretty good and then second and third lockdown happened.
After another dose of sadness and a couple of months spent on the sofa, something clicked and we decided it was time to get things moving again.
We are now doing Lasagna and Tiramisu deliveries as a result; two Italian classics and Nonna’s absolute favourites. Everything is homemade by me, Alice, and we’ve got vegan options and specials rotating pretty much every week as well.
What led you to become an NCASS member?
Through my fiancée, I met the guy behind “The Cheese Truck” and a few other street food caterers. They all highly recommended NCASS saying that you guys are the go-to people when it comes to the food business. And I have to say I haven’t been disappointed at all.
There are a lot of costs when setting up a business, but the NCASS membership fee is definitely the money I spent best!
Thanks Alice! Where do you see the business going post-pandemic?
Hopefully we’ll be able to keep both sides of the business going – the home delivery and the street food pitches.
What’s the best thing about working in street food and running your own business?
The best thing about working in street food I’d say is the chance of getting a food business going without the costs of opening an actual venue and yet eventually be able to get there (fingers crossed!).
Best (and worst) thing about running your own business, to me, is being your own boss.
You manage your own time, you take decisions and enjoy success (when and if it comes), but when s**t starts hitting the fan (and every now and then it always does) it’s you in the front row, by yourself. It’s very exciting but also pretty scary.
What advice would you give to people wanting to start up in street food?
It’s so rewarding but it definitely takes time and a lot of dedication. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times but you need to keep eyes on the finish line and carry on.
Where are you based and are you offering click & collect?
We are based in London N1 and don’t cover all of London yet – but we’re working on it. We encourage people to message us even if they’re not in the delivery area and we always try to work something up.
People can also click and collect. We are one minute away from Regent’s Canal and Granary Square, so they can fit us in their nice weekend walks.
All of our packaging is recycled/recyclable and all our deliveries are made on push bike and are contact-free.
How can people order from you?
We normally take orders up to Wednesday evening and we offer collection on Thursday and Saturday, as well as deliveries on Friday. People can pay through PayPal, bank transfer or with credit/debit card through an iZettle secure payment link.