Except for when I schlep down to Olivo and its sibling Oliveto in Belgravia, I’ve been disappointed when I eat at Italian restaurants in London. Compared to New York, London doesn’t have a huge number of Italian restos, so when I want to go Italian, I feel like I have few choices between a chain like Carluccio’s or a high-end place like Locanda Locatelli. During our (almost) three years In London, Jon and I have missed having a reasonably-priced, local neighborhood Italian resto to take the pressure off a weeknight when we’re too tired to cook.
Imagine our excitement when we saw that the always-empty Shahnaz Tandoor was finally shutting down and that an Italian resto, Vigata, would be opening in its place.
Vigata opened for business on 17 July. Jon and I have already eaten there twice. The menu prices have changed about a dozen times already. It’s fair to say that Vigata is still working out the kinks, but here’s what I think is promising about Vigata:
1. The owner and staff are Italian, and though I think they’re currently pretty amateur hour, they seem super well intentioned. For example, despite a menu-pricing incident I had the first time I ate there, I still left feeling like the owner wanted me to have a good time and to enjoy their food.
2. The menu has finally switched from a variety of prix fixe structures to an a la carte one. Hopefully things stay this way so I can pop by and have one of their generous portions of perfectly al dente pasta for £10-£15.
3. Tap water is no problem (yay! an Italian resto that doesn’t hassle you about tap water), and wines are priced to be casual-night-out friendly, with most hovering around £20.
The food has been a mixed bag both times I’ve eaten there. On the less-ideal side: The spaghetti in a “spaghetti with clams and mussels” dish was deliciously buttery but the mussels that came with it were mealy and flavorless. Gnocchi served in a pesto was pillowy, but potato starch had made the pesto pretty gloppy. A swordfish main course was overcooked to dull hardness.
On the very-promising side: a caprese salad that could’ve been a total throwaway nothing dish actually showed some care with its creamy, rich-but-light-as-air buffalo mozzarella and the juicy, sweet tomatoes. A squid ink ravioli was perfectly al dente and briney. A scallops-and-prawns fish course came with a fennel salad that added crunch and heightened the sweetness of the seafood. *And* it was pretty to look at.
Overall, there are more pluses than minuses, so I have high hopes the food and service will only get consistently good. Welcome to the neighborhood, Vigata.
Vigata Ristorante, 70-72 Liverpool Road, N1 0QD, 0207 226 1475; closest tube station: Angel