This little Italian delicatessen and pizzeria is tucked away in a quiet street away from the bustle of Upper Street in Islington. It was opened way back in December 1989 by the Saponara brothers. It is a cross between a delicatessen and a restaurant, with olive oils, hams, cheeses and assorted imported Italian produce on display in cabinets, with a few tables in the centre of the room. Pasta is made on the premises and displayed in a little wooden tray, which was an unusual touch.
The wine list ranged in price from £13.95 (what was the last time you saw a wine at that price in London?) to £149. Labels included Cantine-Feudi di San Marzano Il Pumo Sauvignon 2015 at £19.95 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £9, Lamberti Amarone 2012 at £47.50 compared to its retail price of £26, and Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino 2007 at £149 for a bottle that will set you back £82 in a shop.
Rocket and Parmesan salad was quite good, the rocket having the distinctive peppery taste that often eludes supermarket versions (12/20). Olive oil and balsamic vinegar was provided on the table for you to make a dressing should you wish. Tagliatelle with ragu was good, made to order and the pasta having pleasing texture. The ragu could have had greater intensity but this was still a nice plate of pasta. Even the basil leaves as garnish had a lot of flavour (13/20).
Pizza piccante came with a generous topping of ham, nduja, salami, olives, spicy sausage, tomato and mozzarella. There is no proper pizza oven in the kitchen, so the pizza base was decent but nothing special. Pizza quality in London has improved dramatically in recent years through pioneers like Franco Manca and Santa Maria, and now there are many fine pizzerias around, such as l”Oro di Napoli. The pizza here seemingly won an award once from Time Out, but I am not sure how long ago that was, and to be honest the competition has moved on (12/20). Artichoke tortellini had good texture but was not quite hot, which was strange given that the other pasta dish I tried was piping hot (11/20).
Tiramisu was seemingly made here, but lacked anywhere near enough coffee flavour (11/20). Coffee was a brand called Saicaf, a long-established company on the Adriatic in Puglia. As with some other well-known Italian brands, the world of coffee has moved on in the last decade and these days it is possible to get much better coffee elsewhere in London.
Service was friendly, and the bill, with an excellent bottle of Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montelcino 2010, came to £70 a head. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person for three courses might be around £45 or so. I rather liked Saponara, which felt a touch old-fashioned but had an authentic feel to it, a world away from the carefully marketed and well-funded restaurants that generally fill this area of London.