Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Italian with a Brazilian

It’s been a while since I last visited Friday Food. No particular reason but I guess it’s been a bit of a slow few weeks on the whole food front. Last night we most definitely got back on track with a visit to La Casa (http://www.lacasa-restaurant.co.uk/), a fairly traditional Italian restaurant that has undergone quite a few reinventions in its history.

Good Italian to me is a bit of an oddity. I guess it’s because it usually means some fairly non-Italian food to most people (Domino’s pizzas with cheese in the crust spring to mind). The thought of regional Italian cooking, or speciality dishes from Naples or Tuscany just don’t really feature on most people’s radar. La Casa tries to blend the traditional with the modern offering up the standard pizzas and pasta but with some really sound Italian dishes which, I have to admit, I much prefer.

Starting with superb portobello mushrooms cooked with dolcelatte and pancetta (which were excellent, I must admit) I then went for a superb steak dish, again cooked with mushrooms, which is a speciality of Florence. Absolutely outstanding cut of meat, cooked to perfection and accompanied perfectly with an excellent Amarone della Valpolicella. This being a Friday night, the whole restaurant was buzzing, with not a single table spare and everyone, young and old, thoroughly enjoying themselves. Rather bizarrely, the waiting staff were not all Italian and our particular server I found out to be Brazilian (and a big football fan too as it turns out). Not that it mattered, of course.

It’s nice to find somewhere that just has the word “relaxed” written all over it, and La Casa does that in spades. It’s not really place you’d go for a romantic or celebratory meal but if you want really, really good Italian food and to chill out with a good bottle of vino collapso you can’t go far wrong.

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A great British-Italian Institution

I do find Italian food in Britain a bit hit and miss. I think it’s largely down to its mass commoditisation through mediocre chains like Bella Italia, Est Est Est, Pizza Express and, dare I say it, Pizza Hut. OK, maybe not Pizza Hut – that’s more like American junkfood. That’s not to say that you can’t get good Italian in Britain, but you do have to search for it. Interestingly, I find people become very loyal to good Italian restaurants, sometimes fiercely so, almost like it’s their one and only best-kept-secret.

Pomodoro in Knightsbridge (http://www.pomodoro.co.uk/) is one such place. Nestled in an eclectic run of restaurants on Beauchamp Place – which includes the notorious San Lorenzo (and yes, bizarrely, I nearly knocked down Sven Goran-Eriksson as he went in) – Pomodoro is one of those places that just “happened”. But, as history has shown, it happened in a very, very big way. Plastered across almost every wall are photos of the great, good, famous and infamous people who have graced the place with their presence. Johnny Depp, Sharon Stone, Robert de Niro – you name it. Such gregarious name-dropping even spills over onto the menu whereupon you find each pizza has a comment next to it (“Sharon Stone’s favourite, Tom Cruises’ favourite). I did cross-check with the waitress and they swear blind this is baked in fact, and I actually believe it in this case.

The restaurant is strange in this overt shrine to stardom. From every other angle it really shouldn’t be popular or famous. Its tables are cramped, the decor is a bit hit-and-miss, and the menu contains a fairly obvious mix of standard Italian classics i.e. pizza and pasta are order of the day. But what it lacks in kitchen-creativity it more than makes up in glamour-chic and absolutely amazing food. The various pizza breads and pizzas have dough bases that would not look out of place in Rome or Milan. The salads are fresh, inviting and could feed a small army. And the pasta is clearly made to order – in every sense of the word. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t change it.

Apparently the live music transforms the place into a great live venue but the act playing when we were there was more like an X Factor reject than an American Idol winner. Luck of the draw on a Monday night I guess.

You’ve got to go to Pomodoro, in one of its various locations, as it really is a great place to eat. Relaxed, fun and with fabulous food, even if it is a bit simple (I’m sure the Italian purists will be sticking pins in my effigy by now). Or, put another way, I think I had a far better time than Sven a few doors away.