Murmurs of conversation, the rhythmic chime of cutlery against plates as basil, mozzarella and tomato dance in your mouth. Transporting you back to summers dining al fresco, flirting in the piazza with Alessandro at the gelato stand and wandering through sunflower fields under the Tuscan sun.
There’s a reason authentic Italian food is universally loved. I don’t know about you but sharing antipasti at a table with sea views of the Amalfi coast sounds pretty damn lovely. La dolce vita indeed. But given I am not Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, nor can I afford to live in Italy for three months a la Eat Pray Love, I have to satisfy my bruschetta cravings elsewhere. Hence why I was delighted to be invited to dine at Venerdi last weekend.
This east London restaurant was the perfect spot for a Friday night dinner. Its industrial chic interior includes walls made of glass paneled doors, thrown open to let in the breeze on a gloriously warm evening. Under the golden glow of old fashioned Edison lightbulbs, we sampled wood oven pizza and fresh pasta to our hearts content. We enjoyed both classic dishes and unique twists of Italian cuisine. The Bufalina pizza was like the sophisticated socialite cousin of the favorite marghertia with lots of fresh basil and an ideal buffalo mozzarella to fresh tomato sauce ratio. Given that I had made the tactical error of wearing a white skirt to an Italian restaurant, I leaped at the chance to try a white pizza. The Tartufo’s mozzarella base with truffle oil and porcini mushrooms was nothing short of sublime. The sounds that came out of my mouth were not entirely fit for polite company, but I had no shame because all my senses were singing truffle truffle truffle.
Venerdi got serious points from me because their dishes made it so easy to share food. One of my favorite parts of dining out is delighting in our mutual love of food. This is community to me- many hands passing about plates, the exclamations of ‘oh my god you HAVE to try this!’ So when our server brought out The Trilogy Pasta, mini servings of three uniquely delicious dishes, I was understandably excited. Panzotti Pistacchio, Gnocchi Bufalina and Paperadelle Melanzane- a mix of flavors that complemented each other beautifully from aubergine to pesto and of course cherry tomatoes. Not only was everything delicious, but it was presented so prettily. The rustic, artisanal look of the plates and the dark wood of the table made me feel like I was dining at a super stylish nonna’s home. While I didn’t try the final pasta dish, Ravioli Con Arogosta (shellfish and I don’t get on so well) I have on good authority that it was delicious and didn’t skimp on the lobster filling. I for one appreciated the contrast of oranges and reds against the cerulean plate. #aesthetic
What’s a proper Italian dinner without loosening one’s belt for dessert, I ask you? Once again, the classics caught my eye: Tiramisu. What can I say- your gal has a serious weakness for chocolate, coffee and cream. My fellow dinners went a bit rogue, choosing one the modern fusion options: Bailey’s Panna Cotta. Not sure how I felt about this combination honestly. On one hand a good panna cotta is low key divine. On the other hand, my brain kept tripping over the idea of Bailey’s which I usually have in a hot drink on a cold day and inevitably succumb to a nap. But I was occupied with the aforementioned tiramisu, which was a generous portion to say the least. Despite its siren song I only managed to eat about half of it so this may be a dessert to split! Whether you go full on Lady & the Tramp or have a battle with your cutlery over the last bite is up to your discretion.
Venerdi is proof that there’s a happy medium between a private jet to Rome and the cheesy place with red and white tablecloths/Dean Martin’s Volare on repeat. East Londoners, if you’re on the hunt for authentic Italian and a great atmosphere, look no further. Thank you again to London Pop Ups for organizing and Venerdi for hosting a truly bella sera!
*As always all images and thoughts are my own*