The first time I ever tasted Spritz was in a crumbling Venetian square, soaking up the last rays of afternoon sun and nibbling on salty cicchetti. Chilled and bubbly, cut with the tang of bittersweet Aperol, it’s now one of my favourite drinks, and never fails to conjure up the hazy warmth of an Italian summer evening.
The ability to recreate that feeling on a bitter February lunchtime in North London is no mean feat and Trullo rose to the challenge. Trullo is a little taste of Italy served up in a clean, bustling shop front a stone’s throw from Highbury and Islington tube. With Tim Siadatan, one of Jamie Oliver’s original Fifteen recruits, in the kitchen, and ex-River Cafe Jordan Frieda front of house, it promises things on paper before you even open your mouth. And when you do, it sings to you.
My brother recently moved into a flat just round the corner, and as a family of restaurant lovers, we needed no more excuse to book in for Sunday lunch. Sunday lunchtime is a no-nonsense affair at Trullo, with a great value 3 course menu on offer for £30 (not including drinks). When an enquiry was made about substituting a course from the no-option menu for a fussier member of our party (ok, yes, it was me) it was met with a resolute no. They don’t do substitutions. Not even for vegetarians (or fussy eaters). A little miltant when you consider how accommodating most Italians tend to be, but once you taste the food, you begin to understand why they can afford to be . . .
We kicked off with octopus carpaccio. Delicate slices of soft, translucent flesh dressed in tarragon, peppery olive oil and potato so tender and light it acted more as a thick sauce than a main component of the dish. Clean and simple, this surprising combination of flavours and textures was an absolute winner. Mopped up with homemade sourdough, starters don’t come much better.
After the interlude of a single rabbit raviolo (a perfect pillow that left me in no doubt that I’d have to return and order a full pasta dish a la carte), it was time for the meaty main I’d attempted to have substituted. An ex-vegetarian of eight years, I’m a little nervous about anything towards the gamier, bonier end of the meat spectrum, but luckily Trullo refused to pander to my fussiness and broadened my foodie horizons.
Nestled on an bed of buttery white polenta studded with nuggets of parmesan, my plump little wood pigeon was succulent and strong with earthy understones. Rich, red blood oozed from chargrilled breasts which tasted not unlike fillet steak, contrasting completely with the palate cleansing starter to smack my tastebuds into life. All this accompanied by wine from an enticing list of Italian favourites which includes a good selection from Sicily and the south. Whilst not cheap, the list is fairly priced, and several wines can be ordered by the carafe.
Not everything was perfect. One of the octopus starters was so meagre compared to its companions we felt the need to say something, and the plates of wood pigeon varied between bleeding rare and more well done. The blood orange curd dessert, though sharp and sweet, was not something I’ll remember for years to come. But the meal is. The charming staff were quick to jump on any issues, and the busy, bustling restaurant provided the perfect backdrop for a family meal. This, combined with an inventive menu and top notch ingredients puts Trullo up there with, for my money, some of the best value Italian restaurants in London. And they make a mean Spritz.
The perfect Aperol Spritz (a richer take on the Venetian classic)
Fill half a large wine glass with ice and a slice of lemon. Pour in one part Aperol to two parts chilled Prosecco. Serve and enjoy!
Classic Venetian Spritz
Fill glass with ice and lemon as above. Pour in one part Aperol to three parts white wine and top with one part soda water.