Editor's note: in November 2015 it was announced that the restaurant would have to move, after 25 years, due to a rent hike. Hopefully they will find a new home soon.
This family-run Italian restaurant in Putney has a welcoming feel to it. The dining area has a large main room with a high ceiling, and further tables tucked away between it and the kitchen. There is the ubiquitous wooden floor, but fortunately no muzak, so the noise levels are tolerable. Starters are £7.50 – £11.50, pasta dishes £11.50 - £15.50, main courses £19.50 - £22.50 and desserts mostly £6.75, with vegetables extra at £3.50 so a three course meal will cost around £40 for the food alone.
Bread is a choice of slices of rye bread and white, bought in from Clarke’s bakery in Kensington and served warm; it is a pity they don’t make their own bread but at least it is sourced decently and is fresh (14/20). The wine list is very impressive, with 300 separate wines, each with extensive notes. My favourite Italian white, Jermann Vintage Tunina, is listed for the 2006 vintage at £75 for a wine that costs £22 retail. Tocai Friulano Collio 2005 is £38 for a wine that costs about £11 in the shops. Tignanello from Antinori 2004 is on the list at £95 for a wine that you can buy for about £41. Oddly for such a good Italian wine list, there is no Moscato d’Asti, though there are half a dozen other Italian dessert wines by the glass.
I started with a salad of squid and puy lentils with rocket. The lentils were carefully cooked, mixed with diced red peppers, and the rocket was fresh and dressed well, served with a little salsa. The weakness was the squid, which while not rubbery was still rather chewy (12/20). Much better was gnocchi with wild mushrooms, which was very well made with a soft texture and with a stock made from white wine and the cooking juices of the mushrooms (15/20). Sea bass was very nicely timed, served with fennel, capers and crab-flavoured noodles made up into little dumplings (15/20). I had spaghetti with fresh crab, caramelised cherry tomatoes and rocket, garlic and chilli. The pasta had very good texture and the seasoning was excellent (15/20). On the side we had a nice salad of rocket and Parmesan, and some perfectly cooked green beans (15/20).
For dessert, rum baba (which is very popular in the Naples area) was moist, served with rhubarb and ginger, a nice idea as the rhubarb gave a contrast to the crème patissiere. It is actually quite hard to make good rum baba, as the yeast dough easily dried out, and this was very good (15/20). A chocolate and hazelnut cake in itself was superb, rich chocolate with the hazelnuts giving an additional texture, but this was served with some very poor poached plums, which were simply unripe so very hard (14/20 overall for the dish, but the cake itself was perhaps 16/20). Coffee (£3) was pleasant, served with cantucci biscuits. Service was very good indeed, with the owner Giuseppe Turi very much in evidence.
Overall, apart from the odd slip (e.g. the unripe plums) the cooking was very good, and it is easy to see why this restaurant has been running successfully since 1993. My only caveat is the price, as it is essentially the same cost to eat here as at Zafferano. Still, the locals of Putney are lucky to have such an authentic place on their doorstep.