With the pizzeria’s tenth birthday celebrations approaching, we met up with Antonio Vendone at Suede Bar to take a trip down memory lane and chat about all things pizza and Nottingham, with a touch of nostalgia…
It’s no secret that the city centre’s pizza scene is growing so fast that most of us are struggling to keep up with where our next slice is coming from. But Suede Bar is the ‘OG’ indie pizzeria in Nottingham, and they have been slinging hand-stretched sourdough pizzas since the 2010s.
Those who are regulars to the upbeat haunt on Heathcoat Street will be familiar with the nostalgic, retro, 1980s-inspired décor - graffiti, cassette tapes (Gen Z, we will let you Google that one), and Ninja Turtles included. With Y2K trends making a comeback (oh, the horror that this is now considered ‘retro’) and eighties styles looking set for another encore, the spot is certainly popular, and they’ve managed to hit both markets with old and young alike.
Sunday evening ‘Movie Quiz Nights’ (and many a night partying in Heathcote Street, with the likes of Crazy P known to rock the venue until the early hours of the morning) are still going strong, with a following of hardcore devotees attending to enter the free competition and stand a chance at winning weekly pizza and beer prizes. Suede also host the ‘Not Nineties Forever’ events, which boast nineties and noughties pop music, indie anthems for the over thirties (hallelujah!), with drinks and pizza included. Somewhat of an institution, they are renowned for hosting some pretty decent gigs, and throwing the odd afterparty too – anyone recall house legend Alistair Whitehead, or any of the live Petebox shows over the years?
Having lived in Nottingham since he was two years old, Suede Bar owner Antonio was born to a Sardinian father who worked as a pizza chef for most of his life. Antonio tells us he has always grown up around food with a penchant for cooking, and is a natural in the kitchen. With no formal food training, this DJ-turned-bar owner took a leap in opening his own pizzeria, but says the jump felt like a natural progression after years working in promoting events at venues around the city.
With Heathcoat Street forming part of the network of roads around Broadway in much-loved Hockley, we are told he always wanted Suede to be a creative space: “In the first year there wasn’t much focus on food, we were just trying to get our name out there and the space known. I’ve always wanted to establish us as an artistic space that did more than food, like club and music events, we wanted to be different,” he recalls. “When we first started, the only place to get pizza in the Hockley area was Pizza Express. There was no real space where there was a bar with a DJ where you could also get pizza, so we had to get creative.”
As the longest standing independent pizzeria in the city, Suede is still going strong with their Roman style pizzas, and two Italian chefs in the kitchen - one with 25 years of experience in Italy under his belt (or should we say apron?).
I’ve always wanted to establish us as an artistic space that did more than food, like club and music events, we wanted to be different
It’s evident that the recipe for their pizza dough has remained consistent over the years - a Vendone family secret that has been going strong for four decades, we are told. Bold flavours and innovative toppings are a testament that pizzerias don’t have to be traditional Neapolitan to be good.
“Neapolitan pizzas look great but don’t always taste great. A lot of people think pizza is easy, but to do it well - regardless of style - takes skill. Our pizzas are Roman style, so they’re thin and crispy but the dough is still prepared in a traditional way,” Antonio says. “All our artisan dough is hand-stretched, and our chef has tons of experience with having owned his own restaurant in Italy. We have some contemporary toppings like hoisin duck, and people seem to go crazy for the combination of interesting flavours.”
The pizza joint has stood the test of time, surviving the dreaded lockdown days despite being slightly hidden away in Hockley compared to other businesses. Antonio touches on how the wider vibe around Nottingham has changed over the years too, with Covid restrictions establishing a culture of going out earlier and coming home earlier. With a licence to trade until 2am, this is predominately only used when Suede has private bookings, otherwise business quietens down at about 10pm - a stark contrast to those late-night parties held back in the day.
But this seems to suit them just fine as they reap the repeat bookings for private events. Speaking about his love for the city, Antonio tells us: “We’ve got a great independent scene. Outside of London, I don’t really know anywhere better. We have an incredible and vibrant nightlife like in Hockley with a strong indie scene, and I like the supportive nature of the businesses around each other. At Suede we have a great team and [they] are familiar faces when people walk through the doors, giving it a homely and relaxed feel.”
Don’t take our word for it, though, go try it for yourself. Suede runs a mid-week pizza and drink deal where you can get two pizzas and two drinks starting at £20!
34 Heathcoat Street, Nottingham NG1 3AA
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