There is nowhere in Knightsbridge/Kensington or Soho that sells cannoli at 4pm on a Thursday. It- may not be a question asked by many, but it was a lesson that I learned the long way.
The cannoli hunt was a failure, but it led to finding Sale e Pepe, a treat for my birthday. From the outside it looked dead and small, with roadworks in front of it adding to some attraction, but stickers on the door, hunger, rain, and the assumption that a restaurant near the back of Harrod’s can’t be all bad was sufficient reason to enter.
Perhaps you will find this Google summary more enticing:
“Enduring contemporary trattoria with a classic menu, a lively atmosphere and singing waiters.”
Or the opening of the restaurant’s own website.
“With over forty years of service, Sale e Pepe continues to attract loyal clientele from all over the world.”
Indeed, dear padre and I have been here twice, making it our regular “fancy Italian” and maybe soon we, too, can call ourselves “loyal clientele”. (Our other regular restaurant, in case you were wondering, is Bleeding Heart Bistro, where we were greeted on our last visit with a “long time” from the waiter).
A good Italian is hard to find. Yet Italian food is the world, or maybe just Europe, over consistently among the most popular of cuisines both for eating in and eating out. If you would like a mediocre Italian, we are simply spoiled for choice. For such a simple cuisine (that is, the spicing is not complex) it really should be much easier to find a good place, I used to complain, before learning that ingredients, chef’s skill, and love (that’s amore) are all required to make a good Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, the first of this recipe means that the good Italians that I have found have been on the pricier side. If you have a recommendation for a non-Knightsbridge Italian, please do let me know. My goodness, the ‘Best Italian Restaurants’ list on TripAdvisor is harrowing.
My other recommendations/good experiences in Italian restaurants in the capital are the now-closed Fabrizio, and Signor Sassi, so good that their menus don’t have prices, for the Spaghetti Lobster. Here I am looking for affordable, good Italian restaurants and recommending lobster.
At Sale e Pepe, other affordable dishes that I will recommend are the Grigliata di Pesce Misto, or a rather generous mixed grilled fish, scallops and prawns to you and I, and the daily pasta special of bay scallops pappardelle (“thicker, flatter tagliatelli”), a useless recommendation unless you visit on certain days but a recommendation nonetheless. My dad recommends the veal escalopes, either way, which he orders by pointing at the menu.
For wine we share a half bottle of the orvieto, which gives me the confidence to bombastically speak Italian when ordering and speaking to the waiters.
The waiters sometimes sing. For our early dinners we have only been privy to this once, much to our surprise, but as Google says, this is one of the draws and one of the benefits of this particular accidental finds. Dinner and a show, dinner and a show, listen to them sing, and away we go.
Dessert is good, though I am by this point at my mildly-drunk, overly-caffeinated, ready-to-have-a-deep-conversation stage of dining; I am in my element, I comment on the number of mirrors in the restaurant during the dessert course on both visits.
At restaurants, padre always makes a point of calling me his “daughter” to waiting staff. It must be tough being a white man with a half Chinese daughter.
All desserts are £7.50. They recommend the tiramisu the first time. The tiramisu at Signor Sassi is better (though I was even more drunk, caffeinated and having a deep conversation on that occasion), but both (sorry Pierre, bonjour Pierre) are better than Pierre’s homemade tiramisu, which is an endorsement as Pierre does a very good tiramisu; tiramisu is my litmus test of both home cooks and Italian restaurants. Padre had the lemon tart which he couldn’t finish and I vaguely remember as being good although the Gran Marnier has fogged that memory. The Semifreddo al Cioccolato is the best restaurant dessert I have had in 2017, strike that, best dessert of 2017, even if I didn’t understand what a semifreddo was and look forlornly at the lack of chocolate ice cream on the plate; chocolate ice cream is within, not brazenly scooped on the plate.
Third time will be the charm for visiting when it’s not pissing it down. Umbrellas in the closet, a damp slog through RBKC, a fine coffee at the Rembrandt Hotel.
Sale e Pepe, 9-15 Pavilion Road, London, SW1X 0HD, +44 (0)207 235 0098