Category Archives: Italian

Ticino

Hair and an upset stomach anyone?

Elena and I had planned a lovely day at the Design Museum, followed by mission to find a fab place to eat on Bermondsey then a spot of shopping.

All was going well until we got to the lunch part. Bermondsey is a lovely area with a horrific secret. Restaurants stop serving food from around 2:30 till 5:30pm. There is no consistency of what time they close as every where we walked into during our crawl had just closed. Disappointing.

We finally found this quaint looking Italian place called Ticino which was open and serving. We did question why but we were too hungry to go into CSI mode.
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We sat down and before the Ticino waiter could leave we ordered olives and zucchini fritti. The olives for an Italian restaurant were horrific. Battered, tasteless and clearly from the cheapest wholesaler you can find. Our mood lifted when the zucchini fitti arrived. They were delicious, the best way to describe them are chips with a bit of batter around them. Elena gushed about how she would be making them at home herself, laughable.

Elena ordered a beef ragu and I ordered the tagliatelle with smoked salmon and dill. I know, I know, I have stated that this dish shouldn’t be made using smoked salmon but I thought I would try it, wish I hadn’t.
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Our dishes arrived and we both started clicking away so you could all appreciate what we were eating at Ticino. Once we were done I looked at my dish a little closer and noticed a thick black hair wrapped around a piece of smoked salmon. I hope the picture shows you how rank it was. I called the waitress over and explained what I had found, she didn’t seem phased nor did she apologise. She simply took the dish away. Funny thing is I got a ‘fresh’ dish but it took under 5mins when the original wait time was 30mins.

We tucked in. Elena’s ragu was very meaty but lacked seasoning. My dish was heavy in dill which was nice but the smoked salmon was very salty so the dish was completely imbalanced. Starving, we ploughed through.

So the bill came and we decided not to discuss the issues we had had to see how the Ticino operates with regards to food contamination. WE WERE CHARGED FULL PRICE INCLUDING SERVICE. We painted a smile on our face and paid.

Now the real problems started as we got on the tube. I had started to get an upset stomach but thought nothing of it until Elena complained how she was feeling unwell. The only thing we had eaten together was at that Ticino and we could not believe that not only did we have to experience all of the above but we had also left with a parting gift of food poisoning. I am still suffering this morning. Oh Ticino.

Avoid this place like the plague. I really hate writing negative reviews but I would hate for anyone to waste a meal eating substandard food at a place where customer satisfaction is non existent.

Ticino
177 Bermondsey St, London SE13UW, England

Zonzo

When you think of Edgware Rd you tend to think of Arab foods and shisha. However, has anyone told you about a nice little Italian called Zonzo.01c525b74c11996b8714ca41541389c05a852318f2
Admittedly it’s on the other side of the flyover near Church St and sits next to a place called Chicken Valley so it’s easily missed. However, when you step in through the doors your are transported into an odd Italian themed space with lots of references to Italy, Hollywood and vineyards. What a miss match of worlds. Now usually when I’m faced with such decor my expectations of the food are minimal and I mean no expectations at all but I was surprised that I left feeling full and content.

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I can in no way sell this to you as the best Italian in the world as it isn’t. It’s nice and it’s cheap and the staff are friendly. The food is nice and with development it could be a whole lot better.

We had ordered some garlic bread to begin with and to be honest the year 7 students at my school could make better bread with their eyes closed. The bread was still really doughy so stuck to your palette. The portion of this dish was a tad ridiculous, four really thin slices for £4.95, not worth the money. We also ordered the Avocado Al Forno which is avocado in a passata topped with cheese which was marginally better but then it could be my love of cheese blinding me.
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I’m glad to say that as we got to the main course things started tasting a lot better. We all ordered pizzas, I did fancy pasta but the offerings were a tad limiting. The pizzas were lovely and filling and totally worth the £10 stamp on each. This is definitely a pizza place and the other bits they have are there really to fill up the menu which is good to know. The base of this pizza was lovely and fluffy and actually tasted of something which is better than your Domino’s or Pizza Hut bases.

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So, go straight for the pizza and avoid the rest.

Zonzo
342 Edgware Rd, London W2 1EA

Caravan

We ended up dining at Caravel by mistake, we were on our way to Dishoom around the corner but were told that there is a hefty 2 hour wait for the table. In search of a place with a more reasonable waiting time we found our selves at the doors of Caravan. Popped our names on the list and went straight to the bar.

By that point I was really hungry and it felt like eternity for barman to even notice us, only to be told that he is unable to serve us cocktails since we will be taking them outside. Our only choice was to pay £6 for a small glass of prosecco served in a plastic cup, go outside and wait for the table.IMG_1170

Baking in the evening sun with sound of fountains behind our backs we spent almost an hour watching other people waiting for their tables. Caravan is surely a popular place! Located in the new built Granary square it is a meeting point for the hip and cool crowd. Half of which are students from the near by Art’s college, other half is young professionals who came to chill by the canal after work.

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Once we stay down we swiftly decided what we were going to devour, however the restaurant was so busy that it took us a while to catch waiters attention. First to place our order, then to ask for some tap water, then to order more drinks and finally to ask for a missing fork…. what a mission!

I almost never let bad service overshadow experience of eating out, i think the food is still the main reason we go to restaurants. But at the Caravan it was so bad that it almost made no sense to queue for an hour only to wait some more to catch waiters attention.

One thing I couldn’t fault was of course the food.

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For starter we had soft shell hairy crab – absolutely delicious. For mains we couldn’t resist pizza, and my was that a great choice. Unlike Pizza East these babies had been covered with sauce from end to end.

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A little something sweet had to be chocolate tart with chili and basil ice-cream. I loved the taste of all of these elements separately but at first wasn’t too sure about the combination of flavors. But after a few spoonfuls i was totally hooked and almost licked the plate clean.

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All and all if you are not bothered by the waiting and the service then definitely do give Caravan a try as they are delicious!

CARAVAN
Granary Building, 1 Granary square,
London N1C 4AA
http://www.caravankingscross.co.uk

Pizza East

Shoreditch, the epicenter of ‘cool’ in London. Home to some of the trendiest bars and restaurants, it is the place to be when you want a plod go hang with your amigos.

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Pizza East is always heaving with people so you would be quite the optimist if you think you can go without a reservation on the weekend. Pizza East is great if you want to dine with large groups of people because of the ample seating and space to move. It sits on top of a club called Concrete, not our cup of tea but the perfect place to head if you want a place to chill or boogy after your meal and trust us, you will need an after place for Pizza East as like most places has a two hour timer on each table.

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The interior is rustic and industrial so very at home with the Shoreditch vibe. They have a wonderful open kitchen and bar where you can sit and watch the action of preparation. True to form for a lot of places in East London prices are cheap.

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However, I think the positives that we have mentioned are actually pretty superficial. The food is nothing to rave about and if you love pizza prepare to be disappointed. The menu is Italian fusion so you will see Mac ‘n’ cheese on the menu which from our previous visit was great. The pizza‘s here are majorly lacking in flavour which ever you pick. Elena and I went for an aubergine/pesto pizza and an asparagus and ham (speck) pizza. The pizzas are very tough and the base has no taste which is a shame as there is A LOT OF BASE. Toppings are seriously lacking and not evenly distributed so you end up having a number of slices that are just cheese and tomato.

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Service is a tad ridiculous and there is an air of disorganisation. We ordered our starters at 7pm when we had arrived. We were excited to have olives with toasted almonds and prawns with avocado and chilli. The starters were brought to us at 8:15pm once we had eaten half way through our dry and tasteless pizzas. There was no shock or horror from the staff about the forgetting of the starters which communicated that this mess up was a regular thing. The prawn dish was again tasteless and the avocados were over ripped. The olives were the best part of our meal however, it’s not like Pizza East did anything to them but merely served them from the packaging they were bought in.

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This meal was a real shame as we really were looking forward to some tasty pizza. We read some other reviews of Pizza East to ensure we hadn’t just visited on the worst night of their life but it seems Pizza East have a pretty strong bad reputation amongst fellow foodies. I think next time we fancy some traditional Italian pizza we will head to La Porchetta in Angel to avoid disappointment.

Pizza East
56 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JJ
www.pizzaeast.com

In Parma

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For someone who loves all the finer things in life such as meat, wine and cheese -In Parma is the perfect restaurant. We came here in the summer for a bite to eat after getting lost in the streets of Bloomsbury. The waiters welcomed us as if we knew each other for years! We got a nice table outside and tucked into the menu.

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This is definitely not your traditional Italian, there is no pizza or pasta in sight! Parma in Italy is famous for Parma ham and Parmesan cheese which makes a delicious menu: meat, wine and cheese….and a few sides…but who needs veg anyways!

We ordered a few cuts of ham, boiled potatoes and melted cheese bowl, perfect for dipping into with fresh bread. The small pot with black paste you see below is black olive pate- delicious!

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Sparkling red wine called Lambrusco, to our amusement, was served in bowls!  This is apparently how the locals in Parma drink it. I found it a very easy red wine to have, mainly because it’s served chilled. Similar to house wine and traditionally a farmer’s table wine this had a very refreshing flavor. Perfect accompaniment to meat and cheese.

As we can never resist something sweet, we opted for chocolate salami. For those who don’t know that’s chocolate paste with pieces of digestive biscuits rolled into a salami sausage shape and served slightly chilled. YUM!!! They make this dessert as well as my mother,  this is taste of childhood for me…i love it!

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I am looking forward to weather getting a little bit friendlier so I can go back to that table outside and have a feast!

In Parma
10 Charlotte Place, London W1T 1SH
www.in-parma.com

Amalfi Coast

We love Italy for one reason and one reason only: the food! As soon as we have finish that last morsel of food from the current meal we start to think about what we will eat next. Who could think that such simple food could taste so good. It’s only when you eat pasta in Italy you realise how us Brits have got it so wrong all these years.

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Our four day trip to Amalfi Coast to any other well seasoned traveler would have been excessive on this cliff side town but we were eating our way through the village rather than site seeing. Home of the limoncello every meal ended with this heavenly liqueur. Yet it goes without saying the liqueur was definitely more taut than the ones served in Rome or home in fact. Lovely stuff, a great palette cleanser. The limoncello is made locally and you can’t go without noticing that lemons are sold everywhere, big and juicy.

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Every lunch we would have our favourite Caprese salad. Such a simple entree of juicy tomatoes, mozzarella which is made locally, basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Never have we tasted mozzarella so milky and tender than we have in Amalfi Coast, the cheese practically melts in your mouth a complete contrast to what we are used to.

Elena and I make a packed on most holidays to order dishes and share, I know, I know, Elena doesn’t share but to be able to taste more dishes it was more logistical. However, any other day if you tried to take something from her plate the Russian would brake your arm off and beat you with it.

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Being in Amalfi we were in seafood heaven being a step away from the ocean so for every meal we would order at least one seafood pasta. For the winter season most seafood dishes had an abundance of: prawns (large and juicy), muscles (lots of meat) and clams (small bit good). Each restaurant serving them with a different type of pasta and a slightly different sauce so we could never get bored of it. The pasta in Italy is amazing, so tender and fresh and the strangest thing is that it actually has its own flavour unlike the loveless stuff you get in your local supermarket. One place worth mentioning is a lovely local restaurant near the church in the piazza called Da Maria Trattoria Pizzeria. We fell in love with this place on the first night with its rustic charm and its generous portion sizes. The focaccia bread and olive oil are there before you have sat down. It is warm and moist with the flavour of sea salt, Rosemary and Virgin oil. Yum, just something to nibble on while you chose your dishes.

Now even though we had already decided years ago that the best pizza in the world was in Rome, the pizza in Amalfi has to take second place. Thin, light and crispy with hearty portions of toppings that have not been over cooked but still have a healthy bite to them. Our favourite pizza spot was called La Tagliata, a beautiful outdoor dining area at the edge of the cliffs looking out onto the ocean.

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Pasticerria Andrea Pansa is the place pastry dreams are made. Everyday at 5pm when lunch had disappeared from our stomachs and the ache of hunger was stepping in we would walk down to the piazza and have a cappuccino and something sweet. The Pansa is said to a century old and the interior is a credit to the romanticism era. Each pastry and cake is light, airy and full of fresh cream. Definitely a place to sooth that sweet tooth.

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If you are not into cakes and pastry why not sample the gelato, not as fattening as ice cream (like we care) and far more fruity. My personal favourite was pineapple and Elena was a firm support of melon.

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This is a place to really indulge yourself if you have a love of food. Fresh ingredients and I must emphasis the sheer simplicity of the food here is amazing. We love Italy for its food and we most definitely will be returning to sample the delights of another one of its cities or villages soon.

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Bucci

01adc3e3a8fd10e06fba0d68f1b3c7fec20070853c Bucci, Balham’s authentic Italian hotspot. Whenever I have visited Bucci I am transported back to my ultimate love, Italy! Full of hustle and bustle, fun and laughter and an appreciation of fine ingredients. Wait a minute, how can I forget to mention the good old Italian hospitality. The owner of Bucci is there every night and you know what, I would hate it if he wasn’t. He remembers every person that walks through the door and memorises the flavours they like making it it hard to say no when he suggests a new dish or offers to make you something special. 017d13d151fd3d5afa315e3f8354168d4787f1d196 Bucci is a very cosy and well I think I would love to be taken there on a date as it is a lot of fun (to be honest I have been there on a lot of first dates :D). 01b22fddbe62403a5461c0a5dc474de8abe3597c07 One of my favourite starters at Bucci is the Caprino Panato, a deep fried goats cheese starter with salad and caramelised ones. The goats cheese is so smooth and creamy it just melts in your mouth. Be sure to try it with the onions as it really brings out the strange sweetness in the cheese. It’s so yummy I could live on this stuff. 0179f3e7b0a7c404f675ed9ace48c3d5a95871e208 If you love cheese you will also love the bread topped with sautéed mushrooms and melted Gorgonzola cheese. The mushrooms have been sautéed in butter and garlic and the flavours work so well with the saltiness or the Gorgonzola.011daabb96d1178b72cc7d85fa44a14e4cbacf80c8_00001 My favourite pasta dish as you all know is the Taggliatelle Al Salmone. It’s the first dish I look for in an Italian restaurant and well when you try it for yourself you will understand why I love it so much. Bucci make it so well that I wouldn’t think I am in London eating it but somewhere in Romantic Rome. The sauce is creamy with hints of leeks which brings a sweetness to the dish. The salmon is fresh (non of that smoked stuff) and the amount of salmon you get in the dish is more than generous. My top tip is to always have it with a sprinkling of black pepper. Delicious. 018b8972e749d63a55c55ec9e674a7e28cc6837fca I can never go without having a glass of prossecco or two here. It’s so light and fruiting. All meals are ended with a complimentary shot of lemoncilo and biscottis. The lemoncilo I must say is definitely the best I have tasted outside of Italy. The owner is so generous that he just walks around topping up your glass as he giggles away. Be careful, it is a tad strong so don’t be surprised about losing balance after knocking it back. 018290f7db7b97d3f48cdb7d6bd87d22a58e51f6ce The owner is beyond generous and really makes each visit a special treat. He is always treating customers to wine, free starters and for this visit he treated myself and my friend Shivaani to a large glass of champagne, you would never have guessed that it was a Monday evening on this visit. Bucci has great food and an amazing host. I can’t wait for my next visit. Drop by and let us know what you think. Star Rating:**** Bucci 195 Balham High Road, London SW12 9BE

Paesan

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Exmouth Market is the hidden gem of Angel. Home to quaint restaurants and home to our new favourite Italian, Paesan.

Paesan is rather industrial looking on the inside or as some would say ‘trendy’. Upstairs we have the restaurant and downstair we have a bar with the most delicious cocktail menu. The bar is separate from the restaurant and goes by the name of Bitter and Rye but has exactly the same vibe as the restaurant.

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We must highlight straight away the customer care at this devine dine. Paesan treated us like the princesses that we are. We arrived 25mins before our reservation and they were so apologetic as our table was not ready!!!!! They then gave us free drinks and starters to make up for it!!!! Omg. The staff are lovely and held our hand as we had a million questions about the menu. We felt really taken care of and were so impressed about how tentative they were.

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The menu at Paesan is stripped back to just the good stuff, so simple and so authentic. We ordered Sicilian Olives (you how crazy we are about them) and burrata with warm aubergine caponata to start. What is a burrata some of you maybe asking. It looks exactly like mozzarella but my god is it a hell of a lot more tastier. Elena and I have made numerous visits to Italy devouring mozzarella thinking it’s the best cheese Italy has produced, had we known about burrata well mozzarella would have been a no go. Burrata has a hint of sweetness to it and is more seasoned so has more flavour all round. It is much more creamy and just melts in the mouth. Thank you Paesan for the introduction to this cheese. To compliment it we had some sautéed aubergine infused with herbs and we had to order some focaccia to wipe up our mess.

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Three years ago on our trip to Venice a terrible ordeal took place in Elena’s life. Before I came into her life the concept of sharing food was non existent until this event happened. We went out to dinner at this family run restaurant where I ordered an amazing salmon pasta and she ordered a sardine. She wasn’t content and watched me devour my delicious dish. Since this event whenever we have Italian the thought of that incident still haunts her so she will either insist on sharing dishes or order the same as me. So at Paesan she copied me like a copy cat and ordered Vongole which is spaghetti with clams, chilli and a hint of lemon zest. Delicious. The pasta was freshly made, the clams we perfectly cooked and easy to eat, the flavour of the chilli and lemon brought the dish together. Such a simple dish yet so much joy with every mouthful. The waitress insisted we have a side dish of hand cut fries with truffles and dulcelatte, so basically cheesy chips, strange combo with the pasta you would think but omg what a combo of textures. Naturally, we insisted that we needed more cheese.

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In food coma we ordered the bill and well our night couldn’t get any better, it was so cheap we felt like we were actually robbing the place. What an evening of pure indulgence, thank you Paesan, we can’t wait to come back!

Paesan
2 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4PX
www.paesanlondon.com

Jamie’s Italian

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Yum, yum, yum are the words that spring to mind when we think of Jamie’s Italian in Kingston. From the starters to the drinks to the main courses, every ingredient is sourced from the finest producer and for very little cost. We have been to a number of Jamie’s Italians and the quality and service is pretty much the same. The average spend here for two with two starters, mains and drinks works out at £25 per head.

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The decor is trendy yet very comfortable. A disorganised mess just like the owner. The clientele is very eclectic. Jamie’s Italian is a place for everyone, large groups, intimate dates, family occasions, the young, the old, the posh, the trendy, well hopefully you get my drift.

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Now to our favourites at Jamie’s Italian. First thing, eat the bread, I will leave it at that about the bread, tell us what you think. Elena and I can not ever go without the super sized juicy and fresh olives on ice. They are BIG with lots of flesh and probably the best olives I have ever tasted. They have not been marinated or stuff in brine but are the freshest olives we have ever tasted. Enough about the olives.

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My favourite main is the famous prawn linguine. It comes piled high with fresh rocket which gives it that fresh crunch and the peppery taste of the rocket which sings well with the hint of chilli in the pasta sauce. The whole dish is popping with flavour, pepper from the rocket, meaty from the prawns, sweetness of the tomatoes and the hint of chilli which I can only imagine is from the fresh chillis in the sauce.

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Elena is your meat girl so naturally when she sees the word ragu and sausage meat it’s like a siren has gone off and there is no need for her to contemplate any other dish. It’s a simple meaty pasta dish with no frills. The pasta hasn’t been drenched in sauce and there is a high concentration of spicy sausage meat in the dish. It’s what we class as ‘hug’ food.

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Going to Jamie’s Italian is like going to a celebration of food. There are platters of everything you can imagine with the idea that the whole table tucks into the platter, a concept I love coming from an Asian up bringing where everything is about sharing your love of food.

Jamie’s Italian has a fabulous bar area which is only available in some outlets, we can defiantly recommend trying the bar in London Bridge and Angel. Very lively with some excellent mixologists.

You really wouldn’t know that Jamie Oliver isn’t Italian when trying these dishes. We will defiantly be going again and again. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Star Rating: *****

Jamie’s Italian
www.jamieoliver.com/italian/

The Food Lab

It was a grey Saturday morning and we (slightly hangover) fancied a good filling breakfast that would boost us with energy. Great spot for a meal just like that is The Food Lab on Essex road. Cute Italian cafe with a healthy twist. They sell everything from hot breakfasts and lunches, to wraps, paninis and cold meats. We ordered a few smoothies, that were delicious without being overly too stiff and sweet.

IMG_7826For mains we both had eggs Benedict Simple, hot and delicious, that was the fuss free breakfast we were after!

These is a really lovely friendly atmosphere in this restaurant, i like coming here when i want to catch up with friends without feeling like we are being hurried through our meals. I am really happy that it’;s just around the corner from my home, which means i pop around quite often!

Star Rating: ***

The Food Lab
56, Essex Road N1 8LR London

http://foodlablondon.com