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Spighetta: more than just a Pizzeria

Clifford Mould peers into the burning fiery furnace!

The air conditioning must be very effective at Spighetta, it was a hot August evening and the huge wood burning pizza oven was going at full chat, but Lee Ann, the restaurant manager looked as cool as a cucumber as she greeted us warmly to her spacious Blandford Street basement dining room.

Lee Ann is married to chef Franco Parisi, who since coming to London has cooked at Red Pepper and Zafferano, whose award winning chef Giorgo Locatelli has an interest in this new venture. Indeed, Giorgio has helped to design the menu for Spighetta. It is admirably straightforward, with a choice of five antipasti in large or smaller portions according to whether you want to eat them as a main dish or starter. The same goes for the five pasta dishes. Prices are very keen: starter portions in the range 3.75 - 4.00, main size portions 4.50 - 6.00. The wood fired pizzas are the same price as the main course pastas. Every day there are a few chef's specials - when we visited you could have had a fish dish, hake at 8.50, or a meat dish, pork at 9.00.

Eveything we tried was simple but perfectly done. That is to say, it looked simple (though carefully presented), but as you ate it you realised that this was very professional cooking that is best left to the experts. Although it's often fun to get ideas when eating out that you'd like to try at home, it's also annoying to pay a lot of money for a meal only to think to oneself "I could've done that". At Spighetta you win twice over - you don't pay a lot of money in the first place, and I bet you can't make a carpaccio of marinated grilled vegetables like Franco can. The only other person I know who does it almost as well is Giorgio Locatelli. (Of course I'm only pulling Giorgio's leg in the hope that he'll ask me over to prove he's still numero uno).

These grilled vegetables, aubergines and zucchini, are not at all oily; they look like a potpourri of dried petals, with two vibrant splashes of bright red and yellow peppers, just like new paint applied to a canvas with a palette knife. And the flavours are just as intense and sunny. Some beautifully textured hand-crafted ravioli parcels were stuffed with a delicate filling made from creamy potatoes and fresh mint, topped with a piquant sauce of red pepper.

The pizzas are all very straightforward - no silly toppings, just first rate dough with good ripe tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and variations on salami, olives, mushrooms, and fresh herbs. They are big but not in the least bit heavy. We tried the meat dish of the day, which was very tender pork rolled around a stuffing of aubergine caviar with olive, then sliced across to add art to craft. The flavours jumped out at you, and the accompanying zucchini, deep fried in the lightest tempura, rustled seductively before melting in the mouth.

Puddings all cost a modest 3.00, and would put many a more elaborate establishment to shame. Neither do they sit around getting soggy on a trolley only to be dunped unceremoniously onto the plate by a waiter. We had a lovely chocolate tart on a crisp base, with a rich but light filling and some super pistaccio ice cream. The Ravioli St Antonio was lightly fried to make it crisp, stuffed with something involving marscapone then floated in a raspberry coulis.

We drank pleasant Italian wines by the glass. The Settisoli Bianco costs 1.50, and we paid 1.70 for the Salice Salentino Riserva. Bottles go from 9.00 to 20.00, but most are in the range 10.00 to 13.00.

Spighetta has certainly started off very well, with first rate food at very competitive prices. The service was friendly, if a little confused at times, but under Lee Ann's watchful eye these teething troubles should soon be out of the way.

Dine Online highly recommended: Good cooking and excellent value for money.

Spighetta, 43 Blandford Street, London W1H 3AE
Tel 020 7486 7340
Open: Monday to Saturday 12 - 2.30pm and 6.30 - 10.30 pm, closed Sundays.

Blandford Street is off Baker Street, it's five minutes walk from Baker Street Station, though more like ten on the way back!

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2007

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