I was in the Notting Hill/Ladbroke Grove area a few weeks ago, looking for somewhere quick, cheap and easy to grab a bite with a few friends before we headed to a party. The meal wasn’t the focus of the evening; we just wanted somewhere for a convenient eat. You know, noodles, a burger, or a pizza/pasta joint.
Some areas are good for that sort of thing. I don’t think Notting Hill/Ladbroke Grove is. The good restaurants, cafes and gastro pubs are not particularly useful located if you’re heading somewhere after (and, like I said, we weren’t looking for a destination restaurant). The decent chain restaurants and cheap independents aren’t helpfully placed either; they’re all around Notting Hill Gate, whereas things of interest seem to be towards the Ladbroke Grove end of the Portobello Road.
We went, in the end, to Rossopomodoro. On the face of it, this ought to have been the answer to our prayers: a casual, reasonably priced Italian; very near our ultimate destination; and not Pizza Express. It did serve a purpose. I just doubt very much I’ll be going back.
I had Scialatielli pasta (the image above is their website interpretation of what this looks like). And it was almost quite good. The pasta was fresh and tasty with a good bite and I think I liked the novel (Neapolitan) shape; which was basically like a fat, stunted version of tagliatelle. I liked the sauce in theory - pancetta, porcini and chestnut, in a carbonara style egg yolk sauce. In reality, though, the dish was massively under seasoned and was presented very strangely; basically filling only half of the plate. I think this was due to the waiter carrying the plate it on an angle, as if he was trying to find exactly the point at which the pasta would tip off. I asked for some parmesan (this would have helped the seasoning). It was promised, but never came. Service was pretty vacant throughout.
3 friends ate pizza. Two had Capriciosas (which my friend with a good grasp of all things Italian informed us is pronounced caprichosa, not capri-see-ossa). These arrived (though not at the same time) drowning in cheese and a lot of tomato sauce and not much else. The pizza bases were thin but soggy (that cheese and tomato) though still, of course, edible.
[For the record, I think pizzas should have minimal amount of tomato sauce and a crispy base. I do like the distinctive chewiness of Franco Manca's sourdough too, but they certainly shouldn't be soggy. I also prefer pizza bases to have been spun into a circle, rather than pushed into a round tin and made uniform; a fault that is common to both Rossopomodoro and Pizza Express (I won't say more about Pizza Express's faults in this piece).]
The 3rd pizza eater had a Massesse – Tomato sauce, mozzarella, spicy salami and basil. He quite liked it. “Nothing to get too excited about though”. Had the same base.
Finally, our other friend had a chicken salad. Which looked ok – a standard but well sized salad with nice croutons, a good selection of leaves, balsamic dressing and decent shavings of parmesan. But there was more dirt and grit in this than in my Parent’s vegetable patch. Grim. “Eeetsa becos offa the croutonz”. No it’s not, pal. It’s because you haven’t washed the lettuce.
We shared a few side dishes. Olives were very salty, but ok. Stale bread came served in a brown bag. Which was odd. A mixed salad, all be it for only £3, was one of the worst I’ve been served in a restaurant: one flavourless, unripe tomato was quartered and chucked on a small plate with some grated carrot, cheap curly green lettuce and a couple of spoonfuls of tinned sweetcorn. You can make a better one for yourself from the buffet at Pizza Hut. On a more positive note, tomato bruschetta looked fine and was gobbled up (though I guess it would have been made from the same unripe fruits as in the mixed salad).
All in all, I doubt I’ll be a repeat visitor to this Notting Hill restaurant, or indeed its branches in Covent Garden or Fulham. Franco Manca (becoming a mini chain) is a much better option for a pizza, as is the small group of La Porchetta restaurants in North London. I’ll even stick my neck out and say that of the larger chains, Strada works if you’re walking past. If there was a Jamie’s Italian nearby, that would certainly have done the trick too; I dare say they probably wash their salad.
More significantly, I won’t be rushing back to this particular venue because Pizza East is coming to Notting Hill soon; specifically about 5 doors down from where we needed to be the other week. Hands down a much more attractive and, potentially, convenient option.
Rossopomodoro in 3 words
Convenient but mediocre.
Pizza, pasta, salad are basically a tenner per item. We spent a touch over £20 a head for a main each, a few sides, 2 bottles of plonk (amongst 5) and service
www.rossopomodoro.co.uk – 184A Kensington Park Rd, London – 020 7229 9007