Ave Mario

Italian, Pizza·
Silver Award

SquareMeal Review of Ave Mario

Silver Award

Ave Mario sets the stage for an evening of entertainment from the minute you step through the door.

The stacked central bar and the upbeat Italian-speaking staff create a party atmosphere, while the black and white striped walls and clashing velvet banquette seating do nothing to dispel the feeling that you’re here for a fiesta, or festa if we’re doing things the Italian way.

Striking just the right balance between style and substance, Ave Mario’s menu is similar to its sibling sites’. Golden, sweet – and crucially, not chewy – calamari kicks things off alongside crunchy fried courgette flowers with a punchy aioli. If you’re here for the photo opportunities don’t skip the drinks, some of which come in cups fashioned into busts of lipstick wearing women.

Mains won’t surprise anyone, but there’s comfort in consistency. A rich, generously portioned pasta is luxuriously covered in a cream sauce with robustness coming from piles of black truffle crowing the plate (or actually, a copper pan, in this instance). Elsewhere, a spicy chorizo and aubergine pizza shuns the chew of trendy sourdough in favour of an airy, soft focaccia-like base that is topped with fresh ingredients for a pleasantly light finish.

Desserts feel specifically crafted for the spectacle with a 60cm drum of ice cream turning up to be carved tableside by an ever so slightly strained look waiter. Covered in caramel sauce and flecked with ripples of dark chocolate, this is a sort of posh Viennetta served in the portion size of your childhood dreams.

It’s not really the menu that makes Ave Mario, it’s the whole experience. It’s the rainbow lights around the toilets, the bespoke crockery in vegetable designs, the crowds of people there for a good time, and it’s the reasonably priced plates with their tongue-in-cheek titles. See: Queen’s Gambas, a prawn sweet take on prawn cocktail.

A carnival of colour and creativity, this is a place that’s likely to crown all the top lists of cool restaurants for some time to come so our advice would be to book it while you can.

Good to know

Average Price
££££ - £30 - £49
Italian, Pizza
Cool, Fun, Lively, Quirky, Themed, Unique
Other Awards
SquareMeal London Top 100
Food Occasions
All day dining, Bottomless brunch, Brunch, Dinner, Late night dining, Lunch
Alfresco And Views
Outside seating, Terrace
Special Features
Counter dining, Vegan options, Vegetarian options
Birthdays, Celeb spotting, Celebrations, Child friendly, Dates, Group dining [8+], Romantic, Special occasions
Food Hygiene Rating

About Ave Mario

French restaurant group Big Mamma first burst onto London’s dining scene in 2019 with the over-the-top Italian trattoria Glora in Shoreditch, which instantly became an Instagram fixture and made its way onto many a discerning Londoners ‘to dine’ list. Big Mammas’ second London site, Circolo Popolare, received similar acclaim when it opened in Fitzrovia later that same year and now the group is going for a hat-trick with the launch of Ave Mario.

The third London location for Big Mamma is the group’s biggest yet, spanning three separate spaces and 7,000 square feet. While the restaurant’s listed address makes it seem like Ave Mario has taken over the space of restaurant Frenchie and hotel Henrietta, this is not the case. Instead, it occupies what was formerly two buildings on Maiden Lane, with the entrance on Henrietta Street.

Upon arrival, expect to be greeted by one of two outdoor terraces, before making your way into the grand dining room, which is as extra as we have come to expect from the Big Mamma clan. Green and white striped walls seem simple enough, but head past the stand alone bar and its feature wall of 3,500 bottles and you’ll soon remember where you are. Towards the back of the space, you will find an indoor courtyard which opens out onto the second outdoor terrace. There’s also a basement dining space covered in mirrors and with counter dining so that guests can watch the piazzolos at work.

As for the menu, it is headed up by chef Andrea Zambrano (who is 23...yes, we’re feeling rather unaccomplished too). His menu is a slight departure for the group (you won’t find any Big Mamma signatures here), but you can still expect plenty of Italian indulgence - think a carbonara ravioli and a 60cm tall stracciatella ice cream cake.


Who is the head chef?

The head chef is 23 year old Andrea Zambrano.

Helpful? 0

Is there a dress code?

There is no official dress code, but most guests opt for a smart casual look.

Helpful? 0

Are there vegetarian options available?

Yes, the menu features a number of vegetarian dishes.

Helpful? 0


15 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8QG

Opening Times

Mon 12:00-15:30
Tue 12:00-15:30
Wed 12:00-15:30
Thu 12:00-15:30
Fri 12:00-15:30
Sat 10:00-15:30
Sun 10:00-15:30
Mon 17:00-22:30
Tue 17:00-22:30
Wed 17:00-22:30
Thu 17:00-22:45
Fri 17:00-22:45
Sat 17:00-22:45
Sun 17:00-22:30


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4 Reviews 


24 March 2022  
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 5
Value 5

Amazing place in the hearth of Covent Garden 


14 October 2021  
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 5
Value 5
Amazing !

Everything amazing ! Best restaurant ever get the truffle pasta x


11 October 2021  
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 5
Value 5

This Italian restaurant it's unbelievable.

I would like to say thank you to the staff who took care of us. They give you the most outstanding service that I've ever seen in a restaurant!

I would like to come back a thousand times!!!!

Alex G

11 August 2021  
Food & Drink 3
Service 3.5
Atmosphere 4.5
Value 4
Big, bold and borderline brilliant

If you have a winning formula, then why change it? Ave Mario constitutes the third London offering from the Big Mamma group, whose empire takes in restaurants across four major cities in France as well as one outlet in Madrid. My dining comrade for the day, a French national, informed me that the founders believed they had spotted a gap in the market. When they opened their first restaurant, there was nothing else like it. If you wanted Italian food in Paris, broadly only high-end or very basic was available. However, going to Ave Mario is about much more than having a meal; rather, it’s an experience. Your reviewer cannot recall the last time he visited a restaurant anywhere in London on a weekday lunchtime where many of the diners had dressed up as if for a night out. Ave Mario succeeds in creating a party-like atmosphere which even the most sceptical of diners would probably be forced to acknowledge works. It’s nothing to do with the music, more the crazy (yet successful) vision of the venue’s backers. The room is a visual marvel. Imagine black and white-striped walls covered with mirrors, red banquettes and a monument of a bar. It’s a small space which could easily feel claustrophobic, but has been rendered into a madcap playground. Posters from retro cartoon and comic books (remember the Smurfs, anyone?) add to the vibe. And then there’s the bar. Apparently it’s a centrepiece in all Big Mamma venues, and here sits at the back/ head of the restaurant, running almost floor to ceiling and adorned with every conceivable bottle of liqueur. The aesthetic creation doesn’t end here though. Crockery and glassware is deliberately mismatched, and if you fancy your water served in a gigantic raspberry jug or a vessel shaped like a woman’s body, then it can be found at Ave Mario. With this much emphasis on experience, it might be possible to overlook the food. Fortunately, it’s not an after-thought, even if there is perhaps room for some improvement. The basic menu principle is conventional Italian (pizzas and pasta), but done with a few Gallic flourishes. Full plaudits for the fried courgette flowers starter, but our vitello tonnato (veal in a fish sauce) was unmemorable and the meat nowhere as tender as I might have expected. My pictured crab pasta main looked a delight and began promisingly, but the lemon and butter sauce was too rich and became sufficiently overwhelming that I was unable to finish it. We passed on puddings, but the emphasis is again on the visual (and presumably the Instagramable), with a 2-foot high drum of ice cream being one of the venue’s signature offerings. Considering that Ave Mario could probably get away with charging a premium for the whole experience, pricing seemed very fair. We paid  around £40/head for our meal, which included a glass of wine. Book a visit, and party on.

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