18 June 2009

Yet Another Italian in Marylebone: Il Baretto Review

An another Italian restaurant, of course, not another resident--there is no room for any foreigners apart from the French. However, most of the Italian offerings around Baker Street tend to be of the chain variety and while I do like Pizza Express's (now not so) new "Romana" style pizzas, which are bigger because they are thinner and crispier than the standard version, and while it is great to be able to get a two-for-one deal at most of them on almost any night of the week, sometimes it's nice to go to a proper restaurant.

Il Baretto is a proper restaurant. It has a posh website, an interesting menu in which pizza features but isn't the only--or even the starring--attraction. In fact, they go down the traditional Italian route of pasta for your first course and meat for your second, a concept which got me into trouble on the first night at the parents of my Sardinian exchange partner when they served me some delicious pasta/pesto dish, which I ate, soon filling myself up, only for the main course--some beef dish--to be brought out. Luckily, I was vegetarian at the time and once I had managed to explain what exactly a vegetarian was (no, no chicken, not even if it's Italian or organic) and why people might choose to be one, I was let off the second course.

When I went to Il Baretto on Monday, it was already nine because I was meeting my post-wine-tasting parents (they had gone to Berry Brothers as the present I gave them for their 30th wedding anniversary last year) and as it was late I did end up having pizza. However, the pizza bufala I had was very good--very thin and just crispy enough, very fresh-tasting buffalo mozzarella and yummy cherry tomatoes. Being me, though, it was all about the puddings and I'd already picked mine from the online menu--"soft chocolate cake with caramel sauce." Alas! This wasn't on the menu so instead I had a panna cotta with strawberry jus and an assortment of berries. This was a good call. The panna cotta was of an incredibly wobbly consistency and its vanilla flavour went well with the jus and the berries. Thumbs up from Bex.

The restaurant has only just reopened after a long refurb and the staff were all very eager to please. A little too much so, it seems, because the hapless couple next to us kept having things brought to them in the wrong order: they ordered some bruschetta to start, were then shown the fish the woman was having (whole, at this stage) but didn't get the starters for an age, even though the place wasn't very busy. They complained and were then shown the fish again (still dead!) before after another interim, they got their main courses (no bruschetta). Then the staff messed up their puddings and the couple probably just wanted to get out of there.

I liked the place though and on a weekend evening when it's a little busier, I can imagine there will be a nice atmosphere in the cosy basement with its exposed-brick walls, arty paintings of Italian flags and wood-fired oven. Upstairs is a small and intimate bar, with black leather seats and room to perch--a nice little place for a quiet drink during the week (and perhaps a less quiet drink at the weekend). The prices of the pizzas weren't too much higher than Pizza Express's either (although no two-for-one vouchers and the wine, the puddings and the meat were more expensive; luckily, the wine-tasting had meant that for possibly the first time ever, Maman didn't want a glass of wine with dinner) so overall, a good spot for a bit of Italian.

Il Baretto. 43 Blandford Street, London, W1U 7HF (Tube: Baker Street). Website.

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