In the spring of 2009 Giusto folded, to be replaced by an Italian bistro called Il Barretto. The note below are now of histotrical interest only. This is a shame as it was a charming little restaurant.
This was not what I was expecting. In the premises of the old Spighetta is a pizzeria with a difference. The main dining room is downstairs in the basement, with a small area at ground level. On display is a proper wood burning pizza oven.
Here are notes from one of several meals.
A salad of radicchio, sliced pears, walnuts and gorgonzola was prettily presented and a world apart from the token salad that most pizza places trot out. The leaves were very good quality and the dressing well balanced (13/20). A special of the day, soup of lentils, had thick texture and robust taste (13/20).
The pizzas tried were a classic Marrgherita (tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil) and Salame (tomato, mozzarella and spiced salami). In both cases the base was excellent, light and crispy, and the toppings simple but authentic. The wood-fired oven is the perfect way to prepare a pizza, and this came out exactly as one would hope. I find it rather tricky to mark something like this. On the one hand it is “just” a pizza, a base with toppings shoved in an oven for a few moments; on the other hand this was a pizza that was hard to fault. I will score it 13/20 but I suspect that this is a case where the scoring system breaks down and that the dish deserves better.
Another surprise was dessert. Tiramisu was both attractively presented and had excellent coffee taste (15/20). Similarly a chocolate soufflé with fresh passion fruit had very good texture and a dense, dark chocolate centre (14/20). Coffee was also good (14/20). The wine list is all Italian and the wine cellar seems to have several bottles in it that are classier than the selection on the printed list, which is fairly priced. Service was capable and friendly this evening.
I will come back here and try some of the non pizza dishes, which I suspect could be very good. Starters are £7 - £9.25, pasta mostly £12 - £13.75 for a main course, and mains £16.00 - £17.25 (e.g. oxtail with soft polenta). Pizzas are £7.75 - £11. This is a proper Italian restaurant masquerading as a pizzeria.
This time I decided to try something other than the pizza. Starters are £7.25 - £9.25, pizzas £9 - £12, pasta £11.50 - £13.75, main courses £15 - £17.25; a salad is £4, home-made bread £2. An all Italian wine list has plenty of choices under £30. A snack of tomato bread from the wood-fired oven was excellent (14/20). I began with scallops, cannellini beans and chilli. This dish was exactly as advertised, with fairly tender beans, seared scallops (really a scallop cut up to save money) and just a hint of red chilli. The scallop was decent, but it was such a plain dish that a bit more chilli would have livened it up; as it was it was a dish dominated by the pleasant but plain beans (12/20).
My asparagus risotto was properly made but suffered from having a rather watery vegetable stock rather than the rich chicken stock from which a really great risotto gets its flavour – the rice was nicely cooked, the asparagus pleasant, but a risotto lives or dies by its stock, and this one was ordinary (13/20).
Service was a real mix – the manager was excellent, helpful and friendly. Our waitress was pleasant but hopeless. There were interminable waits for the food, with a request for bread having to be repeated, the wrong wine appearing, our starters disappearing entirely despite just half a dozen tables being in use, and the dishes arrived with no idea as to which of us had ordered what, not such a hard challenge on a table of two. It was all harmless in a bumbling sort of way but I dread to think what a busy night would have been like.