Freelance writer and photographer who has contributed to UKTV, Expedia, Hotels.com and USA Today and lives in West London.
Published October 24th 2012
Great Italian cooking at Piccola Italia
Piccola Italia, that's 'Little Italy' for the non-linguists among you, is in the West London suburb of Ealing, around five miles from the capital's centre. The restaurant is set in a parade of Edwardian shops under Tudor-style buildings, a popular English architectural fashion of the early 20th century. Across the road is Ealing Green, a small patch of park that leads on to the much larger Walpole Park which includes the elegant Pitzhanger Manor-House, designed by Sir John Soane in 1800.
Despite its distance from the centre of town, it's easy to get to the restaurant by catching a tube on the District or Central lines to Ealing Broadway, less than a 10-minute walk from Piccola Italia.
Once through the door, you'll find an ambience that reminded me of an update on a traditional neighbourhood trattoria. Natural timber floors, muted tones and plain, wooden furniture combine to create a subdued but relaxed setting. On warm days, the restaurant has a couple of pavement tables in addition to its 50 indoor covers, perfect vantage points to watch the good folk of Ealing going about their business.
As you'd expect, the menu is determinedly Italian, as is the short but well-chosen wine list. Recommended antipasti include Saute di Cozze e Vongole, sautéed clams and mussels with garlic, virgin olive oil, tomato and parsley, and Grigliata di Verdure, grilled aubergines, courgettes and peppers with green leaves and grilled goats' cheese. Pasta is homemade and stand-out choices include the Fettuccine Genovese and the Rigatoni Quattro Formaggi.
From the main courses, try Brodetto, a Tuscan speciality of king prawns, mussels, cuttlefish and swordfish in a Neapolitan sauce, with crusty bread to mop up the delicious juices. Alternatively, order an Involtini Parma, chicken breast with fresh asparagus, wrapped in pancetta and served with a white wine sauce and mashed potatoes.
Piccola Italia also does a full range of pizzas and offers a dedicated children's menu for a very reasonable £5. Pizzas, bread and paninis are made fresh each day onsite.
Piccola Italia is everything that a good neighbourhood restaurant should be, and it's well worth a trip to sample some well-executed, classical Italian food.