Pizzicotto opened in 2015, the younger sibling of nearby Il Portico, which opened its doors way back in November 1967. The latter was established by Mr Pino Chiavarini, whose son James runs Pizzicotto. As with the parent restaurant, the cooking is based on that of Emilia Romagna in northern Italy, centred on its capital Bologna. This area is the home of Parmesan cheese, Parma ham and aged balsamic vinegar, and many of the products used in the restaurant are imported from small producers in that region.
The short wine list started at |£17.50 and had labels such as St Michele Appiano Pinot Nero 2012 at £36 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £11, Casanova de Nero Brunello di Montalcino 2011 at a reasonable £50 for a wine that retails at £30, and the sublime Antinori Tignanello 2011 at £105 for a bottle that will set you back £70 in a shop.
Culatello di Zibello is a top class ham from south of Parma, cured for two to three years and with a sweet taste. Served with bread from the wood-fired oven, it is delicious. My starter was tuna tartare with black Venus rice (a wholemeal black rice) and a grapefruit and coriander dressing. The tuna was of good quality and the dressing worked well with the oily fish (13/20). Artichokes fried on a base of rosti were fine in themselves, but the rosti was a little drier than it could be (12/20).
The pizzas we tried here were excellent, the base supple and soft in the Naples style. The pizza uses dough proved for 72 hours, made from stone-ground, organic flour from a supplier in the Apennines. The pizza oven in the kitchen reaches over 400C and cooks a pizza in 90 seconds. The toppings were also very good. It is tough to score something as deceptively simple as pizza but this was up there with the best in London (14/20).
For dessert, tiramisu was pleasant though compared to serious versions in Italy it lacked coffee flavour (maybe 13/20). Pear and almond tart needed more fruit though the chocolate ice cream with it was very good (12/20). Coffee was a basic Musetti, and rather disappointing after all the effort that had clearly had been made to source high quality products elsewhere. This is easily fixed, however.
Service was friendly, the owner very much in evidence running the front of house, and the staff capable. The bill came to £95 a head, but this was for more food than we could eat and a very indulgent red wine. If you ordered more sensibly then three courses with drinks would cost about £50 per head, and of course you could just order a pizza (itself £12.50) and a drink for much less. It is unusual to see such effort made to source high quality products, especially in an unassuming high street restaurant. This attention to detail would explain why the place was packed out even on a Sunday night.