Brunch by day, pizzeria by night hosting drag bingo to put Upminster 'on the map'

John and Luigi

The Whole Slice owner, John Hoggett, and the restaurant's Italian chef Luigi Labate - Credit: Callum Ison

An Upminster-born restaurateur has turned his brunch spot into a pizzeria by night.  

John Hoggett opened Roots, a breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurant on Corbet Tey Road, in 2015 in a bid to offer “fresh, quality food”, he said.  

The 28-year-old - who lives in Upminster with his partner Jodie Lee and their two boys aged two and 10 weeks old, has since opened a pizzeria called The Whole Slice at the same site.  

Launching in December 2020, John said the pizzeria is open in the evenings, Thursday through to Sunday, and serves “a unique spin on popular pizza toppings found elsewhere”.  

Before he became an entrepreneur, John worked at TGI Fridays as a waiter.

It was during lockdown that John decided he’d “love to open a pizzeria” that shared the same ethos of Roots, in that it would focus on “big flavours” and “hyper-local ingredients”.  

John said both his restaurants use ingredients sourced as locally as possible, such as from a grower in Brentwood.  

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Opening the eatery also allowed Roots to stay in business - when lockdown meant patrons could not eat in, pizza offered a good delivery option.  

He said: “Our whole thing is brunch by day, pizza by night.  

“We’ve got a really talented pizza chef, Luigi Labate, and so far it has really been a hit.  

“We didn’t expect it to be as good as it has been.”  

Pizzas

The Whole Slice pizzas - Credit: Callum Ison

The 28-year-old said his new venture serves up “contemporary Neapolitan pizza” which has a "puffy crust”, he shared.  

Dining at The Whole Slice is about “the whole experience”, John said, from the lighting to the drinks and the “rich vibe”. 

The restauranteur said he has created “a little slice of central London in east London”.  

He also hosts drag queen bingo nights at the restaurant every last Thursday of the month.

"We’ve always been about people being able to come in a tuxedo or a dressing gown, everyone is welcome," he said.

“We found that there’s not much on in the evenings in Upminster and we wanted to do something different.  

“Mixing really good drinks and great pizza with a couple of drag artists is really good fun and we’ve sold out every event within an hour,” said John.  

Should you visit the pizzeria, John recommends trying the cheesy garlic bread. 

He said: “I am proud to be from Upminster, so I’d like to put us on the map.  

“We believe, along with some of the other businesses that are now moving into the area, we really can do that.  

“It’s a fantastic community and one that I've lived in my whole life.  

“We want people to talk about Upminster the way they do about Shoreditch and Brixton.”  

Pizza and a cocktail

John said The Whole Slice serves up “contemporary Neapolitan pizza” - Credit: Callum Ison

John is passionate about the area, with its “amazing houses, fantastic commuter links”, but he feels the high street has been “undervalued for years”.  

The Whole Slice has seen people come "around the table again” following the isolation of the pandemic, John said.  

But his brand is “not about speed or getting bums on seats,” he noted, but instead “having time with each other again and spending time eating fresh food and talking to one another”.  

He said he has “exciting things” planned for the future.  

Roots is open seven days a week from 8.30am until 4pm, while The Whole Slice is open Thursday through to Sunday from 5pm to 10pm and from 3pm until 8pm on Sundays.