March 23 2017
Last night, we went to Umbria. And Tuscany. And Naples, and Piedmont, and Campania. And yet, we only had to venture as far as George Street, Bath – to Piattino, to be precise.
This lovely little independent venture comes to us courtesy of Dani Quaglietta, Andrea Lamanna and Carmine Manfredi – the team behind Ponte Vecchio (a rather unique staycation experience in its own right). But although the Piattino party dances along to an Italian beat, has a name that translates into English as ‘small plates’ and does indeed serve pasta and pizzette, this is most definitely not just another Italian restaurant specialising in another take on tapas. While the setup/conflict/resolution structure that creates the drama (setup: a warm, welcoming dining room with alfresco options; conflict: what to order – and to share, or not to share? Resolution: sumptuous satiation at a distinctly down-to-earth price) may be familiar, the real USP that’s going on behind the scenes most definitely isn’t.
While sourcing policies and tasting notes dotted around most menus are commonplace these days, there’s often more to read between those lines than you’ll find in the actual blurb (oh come on, you know what I mean; since when did buying most of your ingredients from the nearest wholesale outlet equate to ‘locally sourced’ credentials?). Reading between those lines at Piattino, however, is like reading a very good travel guide to the most highly-regarded, long-established food production hotspots in Europe. Proving my point before we’d even started to take our tour, a glistening, porcelain-white globe of buffalo mozzarella, milky almost to the point of creamy, seductively silky and so fresh it had yet to even be listed on the menu (the cheese had arrived by special delivery from Campania just hours before we made our booking) arrived at our table. Darn, it was good! And very different to the kind of mozzarella that I’m familiar with, round and about these yer parts. It’s not that other Italian restaurants don’t offer you decent mozzarella; they can, and they do… but it’s rarely as decent as this.
While still taking a foray into the cheese and charcuterie Degustazione section of the menu (you can mix and match according to appetite, or peruse set menu suggestions including a very good vegetarian selection), we nibbled nutty, subtly salty Pecorino Toscano and robust slivers of Affineur Walo Starnachas (think, Gruyère/Emmenthal in texture, but with a much bolder personality than both of them combined). Flying the flag for Great British Cheese, a sweet, Gouda-esque Old Smales joined the party on the plate too, as did funky, chunky Salame Felino, pleasantly fatty Pancetta Steccata and silky slivers of proper Parma ham. So, you think you know classic charcuterie? Prepare to think again.
Now we could have stopped there, swooning over cheese and ham, waxing lyrical about our wine matches (the extremely well-considered wine list here is as fascinating as the food – I hereby apologise for not taking full notes, but I can confidently tell you that the Primitivo is absolutely astounding). But deeper and deeper into Italy we went, taking in Polpette di Malanzane (velvety aubergine ‘rolls’ with pine nuts, sundried tomato, basil, homemade pesto, coulis and chilli – phew!); soft, rich pig cheeks slow-cooked in Sangiovese, enriched with chestnuts and accompanied by a dinky little Caerphilly croquette; and classic Spiedino: a skewer (posh kebab?) of beef fillet, chicken and Mediterranean vegetables that arrived dangling over a bed of deep fried courgettes, with lemon mayonnaise for dunking. And before we leapt back on the tour bus (okay, into the taxi) that took us home, we totally over-indulged in a featherlight tiramisu and a scoop of salted caramel ice cream that actually tasted of buttery caramel and sea salt rather than fudge with a sprinkling of Saxa.
I really like Piattino. I like the fact that the charming, understated passion writ large all over the menu really does translate to authentic, genuinely well-sourced ingredients put together and presented with quiet but confident consideration. I like the vibe (the team believe that good music, as well as good food, fuel a sense of amore) – and I really, really like the sincere, spontaneous warmth at the heart of the matter. E ‘tutto molto italiano… no passport required.
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