I must have been one of the few people so far not to have eaten at Bocca Di Lupo. I followed its opening and the hurrah it created and the rush to eat there with interest. Yes it really was and still is in vogue. Maybe a little too much, as some of the reviews I read were showing the place had teething pains. But doesn’t every restaurant have those problems at the beginning. It normally takes a few months for the wrinkles to be ironed out, and you are left with a great product.
Well except for the ill-fated Tom Etridge’s Ito. It was supposed to herald a new concept in healthy dining at the then newly opened Westfield shopping centre. Unfortunately the wrinkles never got ironed out, and it was doomed to failure from day one. That was my first jaunt into a professional kitchen. I learnt from the inside why a restaurant is not going to work, and Ito was a case subject.
So, well over a year since it opened, I found myself with a few opportunities to go and eat there. Twice I tried with Lina, but on both occasions she couldn’t make it, and as I so hate eating alone. I like talking while I eat and sharing a meal. Well mainly picking off the other persons plate.
In steps an old work buddy who whilst out for a few drinks at the Dovetail in Farringdon said he had a few days off the following week, and wondered if I wanted lunch. Partner sorted.
For some reason, on their web site you can only book before 1pm or after 2pm to be able to eat at the chef’s counter. The restaurant is closed off. But the chef’s counter is where the action is. I hated working next to the counter at Ito. All I could hear were the bitchy comments of the customers. Actually most were justified.
When I sent Julian the website to checkout the menu, his reply was “Anywhere that sells tripe is a place I want to eat at.”
Bocca Di Lupo as you all know cooks Italian regional food, but a lot of it is Roman fried food. The menu is long and can be a pain or a treat to get through, it took us at least 30 minutes to decide, but we were more nattering than looking.
You can have big plates or small plates of dishes. Or you can have one plate meals. All too confusing for two people who wanted to eat the lot.
We were given some great focaccia and pungent olive oil to dip it in. Really nice olive oil.
I settled on the one plate meal of Amatriciana, tubular pasta with cured pigs cheek with pecorino cheese and tomato. Since normally I hate pasta in restaurants, as it’s normally over cooked and soggy. This was pretty damn good. Only disappointment was the guanciale. I was expecting it to have a really strong flavour, but all I got was the same as my homemade pancetta. Which I have to tell you is really bloody good, but with the pig cheek I was expecting much more. It was a sizable portion and I was still eating long after Julian had finished all of his.
Julian opted for two small plates, one of Baccala (salt cod, deep fried in a light batter). He never gave me any to taste, so I cannot say how it tasted, but he said it was some of the best fish he had ever eaten.
The other small plate was Tripe with guanciale. This was really good. The star of the show by far. Beats all the mondongo (tripe soup) I ate in Colombia. The tripe had so much flavour. It was delicious. Would return there just to eat that again.
Julian being the greedy git he is had another small plate. This time of Boccocini. A small unripened buffalo cheese, deep fried in batter. Again I never got to taste this, but there were murmurs of approval.
We both had a pud. His a sanguinaccio. In Bocca Di Lupo, it’s a chocolate mousse made with pigs blood. He said it was good and had a taste he couldn’t put his finger on. That would be the pigs blood then. It’s served as a pate and you get a couple of slices of brioche to eat it with.
I had the cannoli. To be honest this was the least favorable part of the meal. The ricotta really had no flavor at all. Which is a shame, as I love ricotta. But I’m not a big pud fan anyhows.
All in all Bocca Di Lupo lived up to the hype, but still left us a little flat. I want to return, not only to see if was just an off day, but to have some more of that tripe.