TINELLO: A LITTLE LOCATELLI
Of the glut of newly opened Italian restaurants, Tinello, has one of the more impressive pedigrees, being a joint venture between the Locatellis (Plaxy and Giorgio) and two ex-employees (Max and Federico Sali). So I was looking forward to something interesting when I visited the other day.
Firstly, I have to admit I had a bit of a problem with its location. Putting a restaurant in Pimlico seems like a sure way of sucking all the enjoyment out a place. And sure enough I arrived for my dinner to find a poshed-up and hushed kind of place, full of well-dressed Americans and older Pimlicans, many of whom seemed to know the owners. It was ok, a little dark maybe, but sort of out of kilter with the food on offer.
The food itself was a bit like the restaurant: lacking excitement, a bit polite, and a bit careless in execution. Perfectly adequate for the folk around here or as a sort of edible background to a social occasion but nothing to make you want to travel across town for.
Of the starters there was some good-tasting chicken liver crostini. Unfortunately the bread had had only the briefest acquaintance with the grill so was a bit oil-drenched. Similarly, Seppioline fritte tasted fresh but weren’t fried accurately and were greasy. Certainly not up there with the frying you’d get in Spain.
Fried Zucchine were limp although not as greasy as the cuttlefish. Thick sliced Salami and Prosciutto weren’t bad at all and went well with some sweet, cold melon. Arranging all the antipasti on a board would have improved the presentation too.
The pasta course was much better. Thick tubular pasta called Paccheri di Gragnano was cooked properly and combined with a rich, smoky sauce made from Nduja, a sort of sausage from Calabria. The whole was topped off with a blob of creamy Burrata cheese. There was plenty of good–tasting stuff going on here but the proportions were a bit out of whack – I could have done with half the sauce and a bit more of the pasta.
As a way of judging a kitchen’s cooking er, chops, ordering the fish is the way to go. With fish there’s no hiding place - if the quality or the preparation is lacking then you’ll know about it. Assuming, that is, you don’t have a mouth made of tin.
A fillet of Brill was a small but good quality piece of fish. It looked the business but was overcooked. It wasn’t disastrous but if it had been done a minute or two less it would have made a 100% improvement to the dish which had become a study in soft things: soft fish, soft clams, soft borlotti beans and onion.
I looked enviously at a neighbouring table where someone was having the fillet of beef. Two big hunks of meat had been cooked so they were dark, almost black on the outside and a deep crimson within. They sat in pile of girolles. I let out an inadvertent sob.
For Dolci it was only ever going to be between the Tiramisu and the Gelati. This time the Gelati won and a good Malaga with fat, alcohol soaked raisins put the smile back on my face.
As more and more Italian restaurants open in London, a more cynical man than myself might equate this with the similar rise in the number of new Burrito (that’s a wrap to anyone outside London) joints.
Both offer the chance to maximise one’s income by taking inexpensive ingredients and knocking them out at inflated prices. There’s very little love of the country or cuisine, just an opportunity to make a buck. Not necessarily bad in itself but totally at odds with the idea of turning out decent, honest food.
Well, that’s the theory. It’s either that or the fact that everybody’s just come back from Italy and Mexico where they fell hopelessly in love with the country. Which would be statistically quite surprising.
There wasn’t any cynicism at Tinello, none that I could taste anyway. There was uneven cooking which should be fixable if they care enough. It does feel, however like a Locatelli diffusion place, a bit restrained. The brothers seem like nice guys – they just need to loosen up a bit. If their customers will let them of course. Around these parts they do appear to like hierachies and their plates to be handed around several times before reaching the table.