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Address: 222 Portobello Road / Notting Hill / London

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      03.08.2012 18:51
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      an authentic Italian experience on Portobello Road

      This is a tradition Napolese restaurant on Portobello Road, London. It has only recently opened to decent reviews and as it's near my place of work I thought I'd check it out for a spot of lunch and we were not disappointed. It is situated a few doors up from Tesco's in a block generally lacking in glamour. The exterior of the restaurant boasts a large window taking up most of the modest frontage so you can see in. The restaurants crowning glory is it's wooden pizza oven and it's produce is proudly displayed in the window to entice hungry passers by. Inside, the restaurant itself is fairly small and most seating is in it's charming rear section. Here the back wall is adorned with a mural of a rural Italian village building frontage and foliage to give you a sense of al fresco dining but indoors in rainy London. It gives a charming and quaint feel to an otherwise uninspiring building. Other than this the room is taken up by simple wooden tables and chairs. Once in the backroom there is sadly a distinct lack of natural light with only one small window which also means it can get quite hot. Unfortunately the passage way at the front is so narrow it's possible to sit but uncomfortable having waiters rushing past plus other diners entering and exiting through the same narrow space. The menu is classically Italian. Their pride are their pizzas but they also offer an array of other dishes from anti-pasti through to pastas and meat and fish dishes. I've eaten here a couple of times and have never been disappointed with the quality of the food. They offer an excellent value lunch menu which is £10 for 2 courses (starter and main, desserts aren't an option). For the starter you either have a choice of a selection from their buffet bar which includes an array of roasted vegetables or another option - twice when I've been this has been white bait. I've had both the buffet selection and the white bait. I'd say the latter fairs better - it was crispy and beautifully cooked and accompanied simply with a squeeze of lemon and chilli to give it a little kick. The buffet vegetables were fine but I thought fairly uninspiring. For the main you usually get a choice of around 4 options with two usually being pasta dishes. Sardines seem to be a staple and are are excellent - wonderfully succulent meat and very fresh. The pastas too are very fragrant, simple but excellent and again using very good, fresh ingredients. My only complaint would be that they could be a little more adventurous in what they do as they tend to be fairly standard classic dishes but it strikes me that inventive is not the order I the day, wholesome and quality is. ...and then there are the pizzas. This I really where they excel! These are some of the best I have ever had. Very traditional Italian recipes. Wonderful base that is light and fluffy while remaining thin and crisp on the edges. The tomato base home made and tangy and each topping freshly prepared and cooked to perfection. You also need to watch their bread which seems to be at an inexhaustible supply. It's homemade and more-ish - careful not to fill up in it before your meal has even arrived! Service can be a little patchy unfortunately. It's not that they aren't friendly, they are, by the bag full. It's the efficiency where they fall short. Service is a bit hap hazard and lackadaisical. Sometimes things you order don't arrive and getting attention can be hard. Also, and it's a tough one really to criticise, there is sometimes a bit of a language barrier. They only employ Italians which offers a wonderfully authentic experience but also frustrating when they don't understand or get something wrong. Overall though, it's one of the better Italians I've been to, especially for authenticity. Italian friends joined us once and couldn't praise it enough for being the real deal. The food isn't stodgy and is light and wonderful. If they tidy up the service a bit it could be a real winner!

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