When one tells the tale of their Great Love, one speaks with admiration, great passion and most importantly, with appreciation. This post will deliver just exactly that.
I first dined in at San Carlo Cicchetti (pron: chi-KET-tee) on a wet Sunday noon in Piccadilly, London. Yes, Piccadilly is where it all happens (it’s a sacred location). Cicchetti is barely a minute walk from Piccadilly Circus Underground Station – it’s hard to miss. The palpable gravitational pull I felt towards it was almost real – I knew then it was the one. The exterior exhibits a high standard of exclusivity evident from the choice of colours; black and gold. The interior is no different…
… with an all white, marble and gold furnishings. It has a very friendly environment with the chitter chatter from the neighbouring tables and also those seated at the bar. Fine, exquisite and warm. Just the soulmate material. What more could one ask for? (Other than an actual soul inhabiting a human body that is)
San Carlo Cicchetti is from the award-winning independent San Carlo Group of authentic Italian restaurants (ranked 167 out of 18,694 restaurants in London). Each season Cicchetti launches a new menu, while still retaining the favourites. The portion of the dishes is small (usually to share) which gives you the chance to try a variety dishes at once; call it Italian Tapas if you like. It was my first time, but it wasn’t my lunch date’s. I had placed all the decision-making in his hands while I sat there admiring our waiter’s exotic accent. After a good fifteen minutes of complaining about the great British weather, our food was served (a few at a time, given the size of the table).
Gnocchi Truffle (GBP8.95) – Freshly made gnocchi with cheese fondue and truffle. Now, If I may.. Cicchetti had me at Gnocchi Truffle. I couldn’t fault the dish for anything.. Three Gnocchi pasta deep-fried in breadcrumbs, served on a bed of cheese fondue and topped off with truffle shavings. It was both crispy and mushy at the same time. Dipped in cheese fondue and crushed truffle? Mind-blowing. Who ever thought of deep-frying gnocchis deserves an award.
Smoked Scallops (GBP11.95) – self-explanatory, with fresh black truffle shavings of course (these folks are serious about truffle). The scallops were served on a thin toasted slice of bruschetta. Nothing extraordinary about this one.
Risotto Lobster Truffle (GBP14.95) – Fresh Risotto in tomato sauce (with cherry tomatoes and chopped parsley). The Risotto was the right texture, not hard like quinoa.. Not too soft like a porridge either. The lobster was grilled to perfection and stripped off its shell, it wasn’t chewy. Could do with a little bit of salt (but that’s only because I like more salt on my food), otherwise this was a delight.
Ravioli Truffle (GBP12.95) – Three Generously sized Ravioli in Gorgonzola Sauce infused with Truffle Oil, crowned with Truffle shavings (of course!). This was the winning dish for me (apart from the Gnocchi, which I had considered an appetiser). As I forked one into my mouth, I found myself shutting my eyes.. Savouring every bite. I became oblivious to my surrounding, it was just me and the ravioli against the world. These were unbelievably soft, it felt as though I was eating candy floss; they just melted in my mouth and disappeared. The Gorgonzola sauce was very creamy – complemented with truffle oil? Think of another great duo, I’ll wait.
Pappardelle Con Funghi (GBP12.95) – Freshly made Pappardelle pasta with wild mushroom tossed in some kind of mushroom jus (couldn’t quite tell what), sprinkled with parmesan. After having the Ravioli, this seemed average.
Along with our drinks and desserts (Plain old Affogato and Mint Tea to wash it all down), we were pleasantly surprised to find out the damage incurred was actually less than GBP100. I don’t know about you, but that’s a good bargain with the relaxing ambience and the excellent service offered. After this remarkable experience, I felt reborned – like I had passed out in the overwhelming streets of Piccadilly and woke up in Heaven (Cicchetti). It was like discovering a Great Love, everything was so authentic it sent every fond memory of past encounters (Jamie’s Italian? Subpar, Fratini’s? Meh, Capers? Bye) quickly down the drain. All the flaws I had overlooked immediately surfaced (Greasy aglio olio? Gnocchi too chewy? Overly seasoned Bolognese?) – I then realised why all of them never worked out. Everything was so simple (four ingredients and less) and uncomplicated (concise menu). This experience had restored my faith in love (cues happy love song). To all you Italian Cuisine fanatics.. Once you go San Carlo, you never go back.