Sunday, 5 October 2008

THE italian restaurant

why would anyone go to arsenal for dinner? well, because the best italian restaurant in london, in my humble (italian) opinion, happens to be located in blackstock road. i haven't tried that many, as i haven't really been tempted by the menus hanging outside most doors. at this point, however, i don't see why i should look any further and suffer more overcooked pasta, ridiculous combinations of ingredients and tiramisù made with whipped cream. i have found my italian restaurant in london.

i would have never even heard of this restaurant if my best friend hadn't made the unusual decision to move to a lovely modern flat in arsenal. walking up to her new place for the very first time i looked around to identify the landmarks around her building and i was immediately attracted by the simple design of il bacio. but the menu was obviously the selling point. a mere three, simple pages. uncomplicated pizzas on one, classical but authentic dishes on another and, most importantly, a short, beautiful sardinian menu on the last one. 

at the first occasion, we therefore walked into il bacio full of hopes and expectations. the smell that hit us as soon as we stepped in the warm, cozy dining room told me i was in the right place. the pizza oven in the corner filled the air with a delicate but appetising aroma. the atmosphere was friendly but unpretentious, with low lighting for those romantic souls, but no tablecloths or flowers, just as any normal pizzeria back home. the all-italian staff was professional and helpful, and i immediately got the feeling they were justly proud of their establishment. 

simply holding the menu in my hands was a real pleasure. no spaghetti bolognaise, no meatballs, no pineapple on the pizza. i wouldn't have been surprised to find exactly the same menu in a good restaurant in italy. although the pizza smell was terribly tempting, i went straight for the sardinian menu, which lured me in the restaurant in the first place. i'm no expert in sardinian cuisine, but the three appetisers, three first courses and four second courses offered seemed elegant and simple at the same time. i wasn't disappointed.

i tried the goat cheese, asparagus and pear appetiser, a sizeable portion of perfectly cooked vegetables matched with high-quality cheese in a perfect combination of delicate flavours. as a main course (having reluctantly renounced the second meat or fish course), i indulged in an unknown kind of sardinian fresh pasta with fish fillets, clams and grey mullet roe. it was simply delicious. the pasta was cooked to perfection, the fish and clams terribly tasty, the mullet roe, a rare delicacy in italy as well, as good as always. i must admit what surprised the most, at this point, was the price, less than ten pounds for such a rich dish prepared with top-quality ingredients. 

i was so satisfied i wish i could have tried more options from the menu, but the very generous portions meant i could only fit half of a dessert. after some careful consideration i decided to go for the ultimate test and order the homemade tiramisù, something that has always managed to bitterly disappoint me in england. the final result was: pure bliss. the size, the creaminess, the balance between coffee and mascarpone, everything was simply perfect. a tiramisù that i would have considered excellent in my home town, following one of the best meals i've ever had in london. 

i have found the italian restaurant in london and you can be sure i'll be going back and try their pizzas, their other sardinian dishes and the rest of their menu. i might, however, stick to the tiramisù in every visit, as that really was the taste of home i have been craving for in the past two years.