Where better to enjoy a relaxing, peaceful Sunday luncheon than right by the busy Finchley Road? And that was my jovial line of thinking when I acted upon a tweeted recommendation, and settled into Tuttobene for a glass of wine (ended up three) and some Italian nourishment.
Now, if I seem a little harsh at points here, don’t let it put you off a visit; there’s a chef here who can most definitely cook, a warm, friendly and polite waitress, and a rather charming interior which manages the right balance of interesting, but uncluttered, with various bits and bobs adorning the walls and shelves in a cheery, random kind of way.
My spinach and ricotta ravioli with mushrooms and onion was the highlight; a real bang of savouriness set off nicely by the tomato and cream sauce. The pasta was fresh and and the flavours engaging, even though I wasn’t sure of the presence of any ricotta, at least in any great quantity. I’ll dock a point for a cold plate; I won’t go into one again here on this issue, but it’s something I just cannot understand.
Another gripe made itself known via the side salad. Iceberg lettuce has as much right to be on a dinner plate as an ice cube. It is utterly pointless, and remains the only vegetable-based food I would actually choose not to eat. The presentation was artistic and thoughtful, though, and the tomato segments did actually taste of something – though hampered by being straight out of the fridge. Dash of balsamic, cucumber, a bit of onion… As a ‘mixed’ salad? Not bad, but not inspiring.
Across the table, my friend (coincidentally somewhat comically named Mark Italy) very much enjoyed a chicken dish (with neat little fine-cut chips) in an apparently excellent dark and devilish sauce; I forget exactly what was in it, as by this time I was getting properly stuck into the wine, an Italian Pinot Noir which was an absolute delight. Tangy and refreshing, with a sour edge – I could have happily self-medicated with two bottles of the stuff with my main and another with dessert. (Checking the menu at http://www.tuttobene.co.uk/menu/, I now note that Mr Italy’s dish was pan fried chicken breast with peppers, onions, olives, mushroom & tomato. Let’s add a point back on for including olives in the sauce).
Chocolate fudge cake was ordered: “Is it served cold?” – “Well, we can heat it up?” – “No, no, no, no, NO!!” (don’t get me started again on cakes being needlessly returned to the oven – or even worse – the microwave). In the event, perhaps such a crime might have helped, as this proved a rather dry and hence slightly underwhelming affair, though all was polished off (obviously!)
All in all – I’d like to go back. The room is lovely; light and airy (air-con a touch cold though), and the atmosphere would be great with a few more people in there, though I could well do without the naff music. I’d like to see some details smoothed-out; some of the mains were £17+ before sides added, so with the above faults in evidence, one might be a little wary.
Pizza, pasta, Italian wines…I never tire of such pleasures. I love a good Italian restaurant within walking distance. Only next time, I’m not walking anywhere, I’m getting ******* mashed on that wonderful Pinot Noir and taking a cab home.