Sunday, 18 November 2012

Rossopomodoro - an Italian tale in two halves Nov 2012

I got called out recently. Challenged by a restaurant PR keen to prove that not all Italian chain restaurants are the same. I must admit that I wasn't overly keen but it was such a charming invite that I succumbed with my usual provisos*.

Admittedly bowling up at 2.30 on a Friday afternoon wasn't a particularly fair start. Slap bang on a busy Covent Garden junction, they'd obviously been hammered by a long lunch rush and the staff were slightly on the back foot, if delightful, throughout.

Bread and olives were definitely not good. The slightly over dry ciabatta had obviously been sat toasted for a while, left over from the lunchtime rush, and a too liberal glug of oil pre-delivery made for a chewy and teeth squeaking start. Olives likewise we're nothing to write home about.

Porky meatballs to start were fine, though any subtlety in the meat was overpowered by a brash tomato sauce that shouted over the top of them. They were, to be fair, better than a Frito Misto bowl of calamari and courgette. While it was a hearty portion, after too much dry and cloyingly thick batter, quantity became part of the criticism. We soldiered on and finished it, though mainly as it was a late lunch and we were starving.

I have to confess to not being entirely well disposed to the food by the time the pizza arrived. Expectations suitably lowered, they were wonderfully and unexpectedly knocked into a different league by the pizza. I went for simplicity itself, a humble margherita, topped with a simple smear of fresh tomato, sweet mozzarella and a wisp of basil. The other one was a Carmelo, slightly overbearing smoked mozz - leaving both of us feeling like we'd just nipped out for a fag - and lovely, if too sweet, Neapolitan pork sausage. 

The toppings were secondary, it was the bases that were special. Really special. Chewy, toasty moreishness with a light char and the lightest sour tang. By dint of that, and the simplicity of it, the margherita is one of the best pizzas I've ever tasted in this country. It even edged ahead of my last visit to to Franco Manca, a real touch of Naples in the most unlikely of spots. 

So did it change my preconceptions of the Italian chain? Well not really. Other than that pizza, there wasn't anything here that would make me run back. That being said, I've got a new place for a quick pizza in central London, if I can get past the tourists. 

* When I get an email from a PR representing a restaurant that I think I'd enjoy, I tend to send something back along the lines of: "Thanks for the interest, I'd be happy to come along, on proviso that I can book in myself, eat anonymously and choose if, when and what I write anything about it." If it's a cut and paste email, I send a cut and paste response, if they've read and engaged with the blog and sent me a personal note, then I'll respond personally. I've never solicited an invite and I've turned a lot down (sorry Strada... I really wasn't interested in your new autumn menu tasting).

Rossopomodoro on Urbanspoon

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