Giovanni Rana at Regent’s Place
Giovanni Rana’s is golden and spacious, tucked in a courtyard between Regent’s Place office blocks. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls look on to slate paving and the angular roots of skyscrapers. Inside are the pale colours of pinewood and tile, clean lines, an extensive dining area, and large round light features helpfully emblazoned with the word ”LONDON”.
You may know the name from the brand of fresh packet pasta sold at Sainsbury’s, Asda and independent delis. Giovanni Rana has been making pasta products since 1962, and in 2006 he opened his first restaurant in Italy. He has since opened over 27 eateries from Switzerland to Spain.
We settle at a table by the window and are furnished with two foamy lattes and an extensive menu featuring the usual suspects: Lasagna al Ragú, Penne all’Arrabbiata, and a Burrata con Melanzane Trifolate. We opt for starters of Mediterranean mixed olives with herbs and Pane all’Aglio con Scamorza. The olives arrive swiftly with a bouquet of assorted breads arranged in a neatly-folded paper bag. The two slices of rosemary-sprinkled bread are an excellent thickness. The dish is warm, garlicky, and crisp around the edges, and the molten mounds of scamorza add distinctive smoky notes.
For mains, my companion chooses today’s special – a paccheri dish served with pancetta. It arrives bathed in passata with a basil leaf garnish. The pasta is al dente, as supposed to be.
I feel like trying a vegetarian pasta, and on the waiter’s recommendation go with the Tortelli con Spinaci e Ricotta. It comes served in a “basket” of melted and set parmesan. The tortelli is tossed with nicely wilted spinach leaves and splodges of a full, creamy ricotta. The pasta parcels show a great enthusiasm for sticking to the roofs of our mouths, the parmesan basket is well executed and adds a novel textural element to the dish.
Luckily the portion sizes are perfect, and we just have room for dessert – a tiramisu and the Caffe Buongusto – coffee with a trio of shot-sized dessert portions.
The tiramisu arrives in a preserving pot with a sieve of cocoa for discretionary dusting. The top layer of biscuit is too dry, the bottom layer soft. Meanwhile, today’s miniature desserts are raspberry pannacotta, stracciatella ice cream and lemon sorbet. Our ever-attentive waiter (who, I might add, had no idea we were reviewing) recommended we start with either of the creamier desserts and finish with the cleansing lemon sorbetto – possibly the most revelatory dish we’ve tasted – excellent, crisp and sharp yet smooth and well-rounded.
In short, the atmosphere at Giovanni Rana’s is warm and welcoming, the presentation is excellent and the staff are absolutely lovely. Surely one of the best Italian food chains in London.
Giovanni Rana: 47/60
To book a table at Giovanni Rana, 17-19 Triton Street, Regents Place, London, NW1 3BF, call 020 7096 9878 or visit the restaurant’s website here.