Black Pizza and Prosecco in Kensington within authentic, family-owned, Italian restaurant
This visit was a press review. Just a few doors away from London’s oldest standing family restaurant (Il Portico), sits this year-long venture, from the same family and under the passionate steer of James Chiavarini. In amongst the local ‘Kensingtonians’ sat in this neighbourhood restaurant on my visit, over half of the diners present at Pizzicotto seemed to be Italian and this is always a good sign for any venue (attracting the same nationality clientele as the food). A pasta specialist who spends the early hours of every day (less Mondays when closed) making the pasta freshly for the services was also a very nice touch to see – even if your palate can’t tell the difference, the fact that this effort is made is a considerable plus point in my book.
The focaccia bread with drizzle of oil was nicely squidgy and crisp at the same time but with the gorgeous saltiness from the Culatello (ham) meat sourced from Zibello (north of Parma) was frankly gorgeous. Being interested in it as a result, I learned that Culatello is made from the rump of the pig, (from 1 pig comes 1 Culatello) and is incased in its natural skin (bladder), smeared in Cervia sea salt, hand tied and hung for 36 months in stone basements with natural ventilation. The particular taste I had derives from 3 years of alternating conditions, fog which rolls into the basements from the Apennine mountains during the winter (keeping the humidity high) and then the scorching hot and dry summers. Both Culatello and Cervia sea salt turn out to be listed as heritage products in danger of extinction in the slow food ark of taste(!) and can be seen here. The bottom line with this, is that it tasted wonderful on top of the focaccia and I would say this with a glass of red is enough reason to pop in for this alone.
The josper oven and use of charcoal in the pizza dough after 72 hours of proofing was an interesting touch and this was explained as having health benefits (the tiny elements of infused charcoal made the pizza base serve as an antioxidant in a similar way that impurities are soaked up by the charcoal). In a world of gluten mania, it is also designed to be less risky for those with very minor gluten intolerances than regular dough would be.
The base of the pizza appeared black as a result however I actually thought it tasted pretty similar to regular dough, with possibly a tiny element of smokiness – I had heard about this prior to coming, but the actual star of that dish was the marriage of the caramelised onion, speck ham and lovely, moist buratta cheese – again, uncomplicated and were toppings I that were highly enjoyable. The squid ink taglioni was just salty enough and had rich and sweet tomatoes to work with that and the king crab as a very pleasant balance. Not much to not like on this one I thought and the gelatos that were all home made were delightful – I think they were actually nicer than the ones I had in Rome as these were even more creamy(!) and beautifully soft. They were all nice I have to say and if I had to nominate, I thought the pistachio gelato was the pick of the bunch – a lovely change from salted caramel but exactly the same winning formula of rich and sweet with a twist. On the wines, some very reasonable offerings of prosecco and nice glass of house red / chiante were had, the Italian red being very smooth for the courses.
I genuinely enjoyed the taste of all of the products here and that is the key thing. The ingredients were clearly sourced with pride and although some might prefer more space, I liked the clean-cut cosiness of the venue. This was also combined with a good measure of passionate hospitality and Italian flare. For the care and detail that goes in to the preparation of the food and the prices they are, I would also argue this is very good value for money.
If you enjoy genuine Italian produce and a venue with soul, this is indeed a very worthy option to try.
Food Grade: 69%
Location (Click google logo for directions)