Apulia

50 Long Lane, Farringdon, London EC1A 9EJ

Food: 3.5/5

Service: 4/5

Price: £30 per person (drinks excluded)

I was actually initiated to this nice little Italian place by my friend Emma. Sharing the love for good food, I was very happy to give it a go, and I was not disappointed. 

“Apulia” stays for “Puglia”, a gorgeous region in the very South of Italy, it is the heel of the Italian boot. The cuisine is therefore very regional and pleasantly fresh. It is not easy in my opinion to find a Good restaurant in the City, especially around Farringdon where aggressive American-burger-grill places have taken over a bit. Apulia is small and cosy, a good option for a relaxing post-work mid-week dinner.

You can order both a la carte and from a set menu. We started with a couple of very fresh options: octopus carpaccio and burrata. The carpaccio was a very abundant portion, served with courgettes, sun-dried cherry tomatoes and crispy flat bread. The burrata was excellent! Absolutely as it should be. Served whole here and not in a bowl as you might find it in other occasions (both equally good). If you have been following my posts, you will already know I am a big burrata fan so finding good fresh examples in London make me ecstatic.

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We ended up ordering the same main as it sounded too good to let it go. Scialatielli with pesto, prawns and pistachios. Wow! (Note: be ware of the difference between scialatiellitagliatelle and linguine and be ware of restaurants that mix them up! Linguine is a long, flat but narrow pasta. Tagliatelle are long, flat and wide. Scialatielli are long, kind of flat but pretty thick.) The dish was nice and essential, made with good ingredients.

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We closed the meal with a chocolate mousse that although was delicious, it was way too rich for the light and fresh meal we had enjoyed hence we were not able to finish it, even if we were just sharing one! All in all a very good experience anyway, worth adding it to our Italian collection in the exciting British capital.

Osteria Antica Bologna

23 Northcote Rd, Clapham, London SW11 1NG

Service: 5
Food: 4
Price: £30-£40 per person

This osteria (traditional, cosy, Italian restaurant) lays in a standard white-British middle class neighbourhood that we all say we despise but we actually all desire to live in at the very bottom of our hearts. It settles nicely among the little boutiques, patisseries and bakeries of Northcote Road, strolling towards Clapham Junction.

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Rigatoni alla Campidanese

When I had a look at the menu outside, the place won my heart by listing the dishes between “primi” – first entrées – and “secondi” – second entrées. When you see this in an Italian restaurant you can hope they might know what they are doing, as remember that the standard ever-lasting Italian meal is composed by antipasti, first entrée, second entrée, sides, (sometimes cheese), fruit, dessert and closing espresso.

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Ravioli con zucca mantovana

The simple menu entails classics from the middle and north of Italy, such as wild boar ragù for example. We decided to go for antipasti, “primi” and desserts as we were still willing to survive the day. We chose a variety of dishes in order to try a little bit of everything. Worth noticing among the antipasti was a delicious salad of artichokes. We then asked and found out that the artichokes were actually imported from Italy, hence so full of flavour. Less spectacular were the fried courgettes that remained a bit too soft for my taste.

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Antipasti Mix

Coming to the first entrées, they were all absolutely delicious! Some of them are also pretty peculiar to Italian tradition and not easy to find abroad usually. This was the case for “Rigatoni all Campidanese” – Campidanese is a Sardinian sauce where sausage is mixed tomatoes and fennel seeds. They were a delight.
We had some very good, hand-made tortelli (broad ravioli) stuffed with pumpkin from Mantova, which is usually the best you get in Italy. I had the distinctive tonnarelli with wild boar ragù while my dad ordered linguine with scampi. Being very Italian, my dad wanted to make sure he was getting real linguine and not some random spaghetti of different sort! After his funny exchange with themaître, the chef personally come to the table offering three different types of traditional Italian pasta brands from which my dad could chose from! A nice treat indeed.

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Tonnarelli with wild boar ragù

We concluded the meal with again hand-made desserts: cannoli siciliani and a very delicate tart of pears and chocolate, another lesser known Italian passion abroad.

The whole meal was a success, the food was up to good Italian standards and the environment was cosy and relaxed. I can heartily say I will easily go back next time I crave for a real Italian meal.

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Linguine with Scampi

#theItalianraguexperience
#raguimpera
 

Franco Manca

53 Bedford Hill, Balham, London SW12 9EZ  – but there are few around London, the first and most famous in Brixton

Service: 4
Food: 5
Price: £12 per person (drinks excluded)

Pizza is a sticky issue to discuss in a food blog. While there can be agreement on how a medium-rare steak should look like or how crunchy roast potatoes should be, there can hardly be an agreement on what fall under the definition of “good pizza”. Some people like it crispy, some like it soft. Some prefer it thin, some others thick. Some people enjoy chicken on it, and of course Italians would say that Hawaiian pizza is the biggest disgrace produced by human kind.

How do I like my pizza then? thin and soft at the base, with a thicker crust. Absolutely cooked in a wood oven and with fresh tomatoes or fresh passata. Franco Manca’s pizza ticks all the boxes. Yes, the best pizza in London I had…so far. We must always remain open to new experiences and ready to challenge our statements.

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Pizza n. 4: Gloucester old spot ham (Home Cured), mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, while mushrooms (Little tomato) £6.85 – with artichokes topping.

The crowds queueing in front his restaurants will confirm the idea anyways. The menu is surprisingly but pleasantly simple. Six piazzas – thats all. And simply let them know if you want anything extra on top.
For extravaganza lovers, there is a chorizo pizza…God knows who came up with that. Probably someone who believed Spain and Italy were the same country. Anyhow.
The pizza is cooked to perfection. Thin, soft and juicy, with simple and easy ingredients. I can have the arrogance to say that if you stepped into a normal pizzeria in Napoli (where I am proudly from), you would get more or less the same result. Trust me, saying this of a pizzeria in London is probably the greatest achievement this blog could hope for. It’s just not easy. Why? Because when you have little ingredients and only one shot, it’s pretty easy to have everything tasting pretty bland. But thankfully this is not the case.

For now, Franco Manca wins my best pizza award. Give it a go. And keep an eye on this channel, in case a new suitor for the prize might come forward!