Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published October 12th 2010
I didn't hear about a new Italian bakery opening in Soho at the end of 2008, I sort of smelled it out. A wandering down Wardour St., one fine morning I came upon two older, Mediterranean looking gentlemen who were sitting on a bench under a window, eating what looked like fat baby's fingers. This sight had definitely not been there the last time I came this way. As I drew closer I saw that they were sitting outside a very modern looking bakery, out of which protruded some very, very good smells, and a fair sized queue of people.
The writing on the window confirmed that this building was now Princi, and my 'magic phone' confirmed that Princi was a modern Italian bakery – but my nose had already reported that.
Huge windows front the whole of this building now, and I could see one side crowded with people tucking into a varied assortment of savoury and sweet baked goods – some people were so keen that they'd forgone seats and were standing at tall, blocks of what looked like granite, which they were using as bars, Italian cafe-drink-and-run style. The other side of the building's windows revealed the bit where the real action was taking place: the big heath like ovens and the racks on racks of brimming trays on which passers by can get a truly tempting close up.
The consuming and baking sides meet at the counter, which stretches the whole depth of the bakery, with sweet treats laid out at the entrance end, sandwiches and savoury breads etc. in the middle and salads and Italian hot-dishes-of-the-day at the back near the coffee machine and the vino bar. Yes – this is a bakery with benefits.
It appeared to me as if you could queue wherever you liked, there were people serving all up and down 'the line', and it doesn't seem to matter if you're buying your bread/ pastries/ savoury morsels of carbohydrate charged goodness to go, or to eat in – accompanied by coffee/ limonata/ San Pelligrino/ and or wine. But Italy doesn't queue in the same was as Britain, even London, does.
I wasn't able to establish, on that first scent heady visit, if Princi was as good as the faces of everyone sitting in the consuming area said it was. The second time I ventured back, hoping the queues due to it being a new opening would have subsided, I also failed to undertake a taste test. The queues hadn't subsided. The third time I'd had an attitude adjustment and aimed only to go in and walk out with something. Which I did: some of those fat baby's fingers of pastry filled with custard cream, some small, dense, olive oil infused rolls, that were basically large, juicy green olives held together and baked with a bit of dough in between them, and a rectangular slice of ricotta cheese cake.
And it made for a meal easily as good as the queues suggested it would.
After that it became a bit of a personal mission to eat in. Which I was able to do the next time that I visited, with the help of my charming assistant, who kept an eye out for an opening along one of the bench tables, with their leather, padded backed chairs.
At the counter I found that service isn't fiercely quick. The protocol is that you choose your food, it's all plated up on a tray, then you order your drinks and pay – after that your drinks are made at a separate counter. Maybe that's how they do things in Italy. But if you have patience with Princi's popularity and the slightly archaic set up, then you'll be rewarded with fresh slices of pizza in many colours and flavours, arancini, rustici, cornetti, tiramisu, cannoli alla crema... that's amore...
The passionfruit cheese cake has become a personal favourite. If you're having trouble committing to the idea of the queues, then trail by take away.