Saturday, 1 March 2014

A hidden Italian gem in Willesden Green

If you’ve ever been to Willesden Green, you’ll know that good quality eating places are in short supply (with the exceptions of the award winning Sushi- Say and perhaps the Queensbury pub and deli), which is why I was so excited after hearing a rumour about a great little Italian by the tube station.

Sanzio is concealed from the view of those who don’t know the area, which may be why it has remained somewhat of a secret. A string of pharmacies, a Natwest and a lurid Indian (Spice 6- it’s vile, don’t go there) may fool some into thinking that there is nothing notable around the corner of Station Parade.

Of course, you’d be wrong to think this. Step inside and you’ll be instantly transported from unremarkable, grey London suburb to cosy, rustic Italian bistro. The restaurant  is named after the famous Renaissance painter and architect Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (or Raphael, as he is more commonly known) and in keeping with the restaurant’s artistic heritage, the owners have daubed the walls with bright paint and freestyle stick images of cooking utensils. Fairy lights, various flora and wooden shutters adorn the walls, as well as the particularly charming addition of a vintage Sardinian post box mounted on the wall for diners to post feedback through.The clientele are far from glamorous, tending to be locals, couples on dates or old friends having a catch up.

We started with a classic bruschetta topped with chopped tomatoes, garlic and basil (£4.40). I always think that if a restaurant is good, you can tell immediately by the quality of the simplest dishes. We weren’t disappointed. Tomatoes were fresh and juicy and the hint of raw garlic gave a nice heat. For the main, I chose a risotto from the specials menu - Chicken, fresh oregano and fontina cheese (~£12.00). The chicken was perfectly tender, the young fontina cheese was gooey and creamy, and the perfume of oregano permeated the whole dish to just the right degree. I couldn’t finish it, so took the leftovers home in a doggy bag. I did manage room for a dessert though, which was a light and delicious homemade (I want to stress homemade, because so many restaurants take the cheat route and buy them in) pear and mascapone tart (£~5.00)

Seafood linguine and chicken, oregano and fontina risotto

I also visited Sanzio on Valentine’s day and I do think it works equally well as an understated date restaurant as a casual get-together restaurant largely due to the fact that it’s not swamped with punters. The staff don’t rush you, which is another plus point and something that’s rare in busier central London restaurants.

The highlight of the Valentine’s menu was a gargantuan tower of rump steak, seasoned and cooked to perfection- three steaks piled precariously between layers of wilted, garlicky spinach and a side of crisp french fries. That’s bang for your buck.  

If you want to be as happy as these two fellas, get yourself down to Sanzio

The bottom line- Sanzio serves up good quality, simple and authentic food- a great find for locals and worth a trip for those from further afield.
Sanzio on Urbanspoon

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