I have often found the Italians to be quite a particular people. Especially about the food. I once made the mistake of trying to make a Spaghetti Carbonara with Italians present in the room and was greeted with head-shaking and sighing. And that was just for way I went about boiling the spaghetti. The other side of this coin is that if someone born in Rome wants to take you to his favourite restaurant in London, you’re probably on to a winner.
Step forward, Sartori, just a stone’s throw from the unpromising tourist mecca of Leicester Square. Despite there being been a stiff penalty for not cancelling with at least 24 hours notice, we made a reservation for Friday night.
We were greeted in an exuberant way by someone who seemed like a maître d. Even though the place was only half full, the punters were already getting into the swing of Friday night so it was already quite lively. My heart did sink a little as we were led down the stairs to the basement but at least it was a bit quieter down there. At least to start with.
It was reassuring to see a proper pizza oven but the air con which was there probably to counter the heat was a little keen and another layer of clothing was needed.
The wine list came in a thick volume but fortunately our companions spotted Nero d’Avola which meant I didn’t need to resort to my normal point-somewhere-on-the-menu-at-random approach.
Choosing starters wasn’t the normal agony as a party of four should offer plenty of tasting-someone-else’s-starter options, Covid precautions notwithstanding. Prosciutto Crudo e Burrata was a shoo-in as the gooey-centered burrata cheese isn’t normally that easy to get hold of. Involtini di Melanzane Parmigiana – Aubergine and mozzarella baked with tomato, Parmesan & basil – was nice and sloppy. For my partner and I to share it was a toss-up between Calamari e Zucchine Fritti – Deep-fried fresh calamari and courgettes – and Cozze Marinara – Sautéed fresh mussels with garlic, olive oil, tomato, chilli & oregano with garlic toasted bread. We didn’t regret going for the mussels in the end as they were plentiful and the sauce rich and herby. In fact, all the starters were perhaps a little too generous as we ended up struggling to complete the next course.
For mains.. the eternal question – go full Italian and have a pasta dish – as well as some kind of secondi or be sensible and just go for one or the other. We went sensible as the starters alone had almost finished us off.
There were variations on the chicken escallop theme but the one to go for, for the sheer sloppy smoked cheesy goodness had to be Pollo Melanzane e Scamorza – Chicken breast in breadcrumbs with aubergines smoked mozzarella & tomato, with sautéed potatoes on the side.
Pizzas from the proper brick oven all looked great and I imagine that the slight burning of the crust would be considered the Napolitan way.
Pasta dishes were varied but the Pappardelle con Zucchine e Crema di Porcini – Pappardelle with courgettes, porcini cream & Parmesan – was ordered and didn’t disappoint.
I’d forgotten that Limocello was a thing so that was a nice surprise at the end of the meal though we didn’t linger too long as we’d been joined by group of gentlemen who’d just come from the pub and were edging up the volume accordingly.
At Sartori, you get the cheerful Italian real deal but if you want to have the experience on a budget then the much cheaper lunch menu is recommended.