Diciannove in the City
In the heart of the City, it’s not too easy to find places to eat comfortably in the evening. Yet close to Blackfriars Bridge there’s Diciannove, a brasserie-style Italian restaurant.
The look is quite international – it’s set in an international hotel after all – but the food is authentically Italian. So is the floor team and chef Alessandro Bay, previously at the helm of Locatelli’s Refettorio. Part of their wine selection is immediately visible from the tables, with bottles of exquisite super-Tuscan Tignanello overlooking the room.
Why would you eat here? Because you are guaranteed to leave satisfied. The Italian Bread Selection and Castelvetrano Olives are a must-order. The rosemary focaccia is soft and oily – exactly as it should be – and the olives are the classic southern Sicilian ones from Castelvetrano, southern of Palermo.
This is a place not only for intimate meals but also parties; the function room is cosy but carries a more sophisticated atmosphere: one can easily foresee that it will be constantly booked in December.
Some of the guests wear a tie – we are in the middle of the City – but the clientele is very varied: hotel guests, businessmen and casual tourists.
We try a few starters from the menu: Burrata Crostini (highlighted as a signature dish), Cappesante Scottate and Ricotta and Spinaci Gnocchi (again a signature). Burrata is buttered mozzarella, typically from Puglia (Apulia), and it needs to be very fresh to be enjoyable. Served on grilled aubergines and covered with chilli, it’s also suitable for vegetarians.
The cappesante (scallops) are pan-fried and very well seasoned: soft but not overcooked, they come with a sweet butternut squash purée that works well as an accompaniment. The gnocchi are reminiscent of canederli (a typical Austrian dish also popular in the Italian bordering area) due to their size and plumpness; the anchovy butter they are covered with is delicious – and the same goes for the very fresh cherry tomatoes.
Wine-wise, we opt for two glasses of white: Gavi di Gavi Superiore DOCG 2011 by Morgassi, from Piedmont (north-west), and a Sauvignon Blanc Vigne Orsone 2012 by Bastianich from Friuli (north-east). The Gavi di Gavi is slightly fruity and dry, a good match for the scallops, and the Cabernet Sauvignon is initially too fruity on the nose but then luckily develops on the palate thanks to a sharp aftertaste.
For the main courses, we stay on the signature trail and order Filetto di Manzo (fillet of beef) and Pesce Spada (swordfish). The temperature of the meat is medium-rare, exactly as requested, but no one said it would be sliced and covered with gravy. The polenta it lies on is a bit too creamy and the mushrooms are tasty but buttery. Basically, it’s good but lacks the lightness of Italian cuisine. The glass of Chianti Ruffina Fattoria DOCG 2011 by Basciano is an appropriate pairing. The swordfish is grilled, a generous portion served with rocket salad and again delicious cherry tomatoes.
By the time we have a look at the dessert menu it’s 10pm and people keep coming – definitely a good sign. We choose the Delizia al Cioccolato (“chocolate delight”) and the Classic Tiramisù. Both plates have something in common: they taste great, but look uninspiring. Appearance is increasingly important for restaurant dishes and these two courses are not something you would want to Instagram. However, they are something you would want to eat again and again. The mousse is thick and chocolatey; the tiramisù is clearly homemade, creamy and tasty.
To conclude the dinner, we are invited by the lovely waitress to taste two grappas (liquor made from distilling pomage, aka what remains from the pressing of grapes). One is made from muscat – you really need to like this to enjoy it – whereas the other is infused with camomile and it’s actually quite surprising. I’m not a fan of grappa, but this is very interesting to try.
Before leaving, we notice the little deli next to the entrance where you can find Italian ingredients: cheeses, sauces, pastas, sweets and vinaigrettes.
Diciannove is a reliable restaurant if you want a relaxed dinner out with honest, genuine food; unpretentious, it delivers fresh materials and authentic Italian recipes. Whether for business or private events, the function room also provides an opportune venue.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Laura Denti
To book a table at Diciannove, 19 New Bridge Street London EC4V 6DB, call 020 7438 8052 or enquire here.