When an Italian restaurant is packed with Italians, you can be pretty certain that you've come across something good. La Pappardella on Old Brompton Road is one of those really good finds – a cheery and excellent-value, independent Italian restaurant. It's always buzzing – with a mix of all ages – but you can usually get a table without booking, unless Chelsea has just finished playing a home game.
The menu is extensive with deliciously-thin pizzas, pastas and a good range of other main courses. Last time I went, I opted for the gnocchi gamberi e zucchini (gnocchi with prawns and courgette in a creamy sauce). Often after a few mouthfuls, I find gnocchi a bit heavy and usually have food envy of what the people around me are eating, but this gnocchi was one of the nicest gnocchi dishes I've ever had - it was deliciously light. A friend had a mediterranea pizza which arrived on a wooden board and was huge, with a thin crispy base and topped with goat's cheese, sun-dried tomatoes & basil pesto. This was like the pizzas I remembered from Italy, when I spent five months living in the foodie city of Turin. The other member of our group had the saltinbocca alla romana – veal topped with Parma ham, sage and butter and served with garlicky, buttery spinach. Pizzas are around £8 or £9 each, and mains a few pounds more.
You didn't need a side dish, but we did, and went for zucchini fritti – again, deliciously light. The portions are extremely generous, and the drinks menu includes half bottles of house red and white.
La Pappardella is five minutes' walk from West Brompton and Earl's Court, so is a good place if you're off to watch the Olympic volleyball – or heading there to an exhibition.