“This is the food that we would eat” the manager explained, and by that of course he meant Italians.
‘Enoteca’ is an Italian word meaning ‘wine repository’. And that’s exactly what this place is. Situated in a bustling Farringdon overlooking Smithfield, Enoteca Rabezzana is a wine bar that also serves up some rather delicious Italian food.
This is high end, authentic Italian cooking designed by executive chef Federico Casali. He’s been quoted as saying his style is “experimental but that Italian tradition and culture are respected” throughout, with “modern techniques used to elevate traditional Italian recipes.” And it really is exceptional.
The menu of small plates, pasta, meat, fish, and desserts provides a choice of regional cuisines from across Italy which can be paired with a range of over 120 Italian wines that call to you from shelves, walls and the ceiling. Wines are from small producers in every corner of Italy which are mostly sourced directly from the owners so you can find a deeper selection of wines from Piedmont, where Rabezzana Vini, one of the founders, has been making wines since 1876 and has relationships with some of the best producers from small vineyards in Langhe.
The restaurant is a glass fronted space, with its dark walls, gently worn wooden furniture, neutral canvas lanterns and vibrant patterned tiles giving it a relaxed feel. A little background jazz gives ambience, and the waft of freshly grated parmesan focuses you back in on why you’re really there.
After being talked through the menu, and discovering that all ingredients are sourced from Italy, I began with burrata. This snowy ball of mozzarella and cream arrives sprinkled with pink peppercorns, sitting on top of a forest of peppery rocket. A semi-circle of jewelled datterini tomatoes drizzled with a black and syrupy balsamic sits around one half; the other half is hugged by fat curls of salty Parma ham.
“I need more sweet bread in my life!”
My dining companion starts with the lamb sweet bread ‘Alla Milanese’. Half a dozen deep fried nuggets are accompanied by a big slice of charred hispi cabbage, the richness of the offal offset by the sweet bread’s crisp coating, sweet cabbage and a drizzle of pungent but light mustard sauce.
The grunts of pleasure continue next to me for several minutes until the plate is virtually licked clean. “I need more sweet bread in my life!”, is the verdict.
The chef’s signature main is tonnarello, with red mullet, lime butter and pistachio pesto. It’s like Christmas has come – a pyramid of silky, al dente golden yellow pasta, soft cubes of white fish and studs of green pistachio. Another example of the chef’s ability to perfectly balance both flavours and textures.
“I’ve never had something so truffley in London before!”
A ravioli stuffed with truffle, mushrooms and pecorino comes in a black pepper sauce that throbs with truffle flavour and is topped with a generous covering of truffle shavings. “I’ve never had something so truffley in London before!” comes the response.
I put my fork down to take a small break – the portions are generous. My companion was slowly making his way through his plate, clearly not wanting it to come to an end. Then without a word or eye contact, he pulled my plate towards him, twizzled my fork and gobbled a huge mouthful of my pasta, continuing to talk as if nothing had happened. He had gone into a kind of pasta nirvana, where table manners didn’t really register any more. He just wanted it all.
Neither of us are particularly keen on pudding, but we decided it was probably going to be worth it.
Soft creamy pannacotta perfection comes dressed with a slick of glossy mango sauce and scattered with a chocolate biscuit crumb. While the pan brioche is hot and doughy inside, light and crispy outside, covered with gooey plum jam, and cooled with a scoop of nutty brown butter ice cream. I was met with a threatening growl as I moved my spoon towards it for a taste.
What you have here is essentially Michelin quality food at a ridiculously reasonable price. To book and discover more, visit: www.rabezzana.co.uk
By Suzanne Whitlock