Food in Italy is a deeply regional affair, but in London we are used to generic Italian restaurants serving dishes from across the country, usually with little regard to regional cuisine. By contrast, Totide (“every day”) in Putney specialises in the food of Emilia Romagna, the area of northern Italy centred on Bologna. This is the home of Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, tortellini and Parma ham, so is one of the great food areas of Italy. The restaurant opened in the spring of 2016 and is run by three friends from Emilia Romagna, and imports ingredients weekly direct from there. Totide is located in a cul de sac a couple of doors from Putney bus station. The dining room is simply decorated but has comfortable chairs and a few seats outside in good weather; it seats around 40 diners at full capacity. The head chef and part owner is Marco Gambarelli, who worked as a chef in Modena before moving here.
The short 38 strong wine list ranged in price from £15.00 (it is long time since I have written that) to £97, with a median price of just £27 and average mark-up only 2.1 times the retail price. Four-fifths of the list was sourced from Emilia Romagna, but it was a pity that the owners do not bother to list vintages. It is one thing expecting customers to choose a £25 wine without knowing the vintage, quite another to select a £97 wine in the dark as to when it was made. The vintage determines not only retail price but also whether it is ready to drink, which are two important things when picking a wine.
A generously filled salad bowl contained spinach leaves, walnuts and pears, as well as olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the customer to make their own dressing. The spinach leaves were unusually good, and both the oil and vinegar were good quality (13/20). I began with a special of the evening, tortellini filled with porcini mushrooms, glazed with butter and garnished with chives. The pasta, made by an artisanal producer just outside Modena, was dazzlingly good and beautifully cooked. If this pasta arrived at a Michelin starred restaurant then I would have been very happy (easily 15/20). Some pasta like this one is imported, and some is made from scratch at the restaurant.
Another top-notch dish was spinach and ricotta tortelloni with sage and butter. The pasta, from the same Modena supplier, was superb, the sage bringing a pleasing extra flavour note (15/20). My risotto with a blend of minced pork and beef with balsamic vinegar was good, though using a vegetable stock meant that the arborio rice had less flavour than if a chicken stock had been applied. This was still a good risotto, but it could have been even better (just about 14/20).
Desserts were not of the same league as the pasta dishes. Tiramisu was pleasant but was lacking in the deep coffee flavour that top notch versions of this dish possess (13/20). Zuppa Inglese was essentially a trifle, but the sponge was ordinary and there was not enough fruit acidity to balance the custard (11/20). Ice creams were pleasant. The coffee was from a supplier in Italy and was quite good.
Service was friendly and quite efficient on this quiet Tuesday evening in August. The bill came to £60 a head, including pre-dinner drinks and one of the best wines on the list. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a more typical cost per head would be about £40. This seems to me a bargain, as the pasta dishes in particular were out of the top drawer. Not everything was to this level, but the meal here was nonetheless a bargain. Ironically this restaurant almost ended up in Chiswick but the owners selected this site instead for size/rent reasons. I suspect that it would have done better in W4 given the higher footfall, and if it has been there I for one would be returning here on a weekly basis. This is just the kind of independent, authentic Italian restaurant that everyone wishes was at the end of their road but never is (unless you happen to live by Putney bus station). Do yourself a favour and try it.