Posted on Saturday, 3rd August 2013
Rossopomodoro is a chain of restaurants serving Neapolitan cuisine and pizzas. A global operation, Rossopomodoro had its origins in Naples and is a well-recognised brand name in Italy. It has seven branches throughout the UK and in a string of other countries throughout the world.
At the invitation of Rossopomodoro I ventured to both the branches in Wandsworth and Covent Garden. My visit to the Wandsworth branch coincided with ‘RossoMusica’, a singing competition sponsored by Ferrarelle where London-based Italian singers perform and compete for the chance to win the prize of RossoMusica champion. The last of the heats was last week, and the final will be held on Thursday, 26 September 2013. For £10, RossoMusica promises you not only get some good music, one drink and a buffet of pastas and salads, but a night of frivolity as well.
The Wandsworth branch is split over two floors. It is a spacious area with a modern industrial look, and the floor to ceiling glass windows on the ground floor allow in oodles of natural light. On the first floor there is a fabulous terrace area that is perfect for al fresco dining.
The Covent Garden branch by contrast is a little bit more compact and less spacious than the one in Wandworth. Being in Covent Garden, its more hustle and bustle. There is a rather hectic feel to it, but it is also more conveniently placed for the attractions of the West End. There are also some tables outside which allow for a spot of people watching.
Rossopomodoro stays true to its Neapolitan heritage by impressively importing all its ingredients from Naples including items such as the flour used in its pizza bases. The fresh buffalo mozzarella (£15.45) that we ordered came in that day and was delicious, especially with a drizzling of olive oil and fresh basil. Accompanying the mozzarella was some bruschetta with a yummy cherry tomato topping that was fresh, ripe and sweet in that superb Italian way. However, the bread was less appealing as it was a tad bland.
Less successful was the fried calamari and courgettes (£7.95). The calamari was tender, but the batter could have been crunchier, and the courgettes needed a touch more cooking. An accompanying lemon dressing was also too acidic.
Italian cured meats (£7.25) of Buffalo bresaola, spicy salami and Parma ham was also good, particularly the spicy salami for its little hint of heat. But beef meatballs (£5.45) were a little dense in texture and could have been stronger on the beef flavour.
A Parmigiana starter (£6.95) with baked aubergines, smoked mozzarella, parmesan cheese and basil was rustic and homely. What made it really good was the tomato sauce as it was deliciously sweet.
The tomato sauce is an ingredient Rossopomodoro do really well, a fact also evidenced in the Scialatiello pasta with aubergines, courgettes and buffalo caciottella cheese (£12.45). The sauce was really tasty, and the pasta was cooked al dente with lots and lots of bite.
We were less impressed with the ‘vongolella’, spaghetti with clams, courgettes and parsley however. The sauce needed some more kick, eg, chilli, garlic, etc, and there were bits of grit in the clams.
But pizzas are why people go to Rossopomodoro and these were indeed very good. The pizza dough was authentic in that classic Neapolitan way. They were thin, crispy and soft, and every bit as good as the pizza base I tried at the well-known Sorbillo in Naples. We had the ‘vitulana’, a special of the day with sausage, mixed mushrooms, mozzarella and truffle (£14.95) that was gloriously fragrant from the use of truffle oil.
‘Ventura’, mozzarella, Parma ham, rocket and parmesan (£12.45) was also a great combination although the pizza base was a little burnt around the edges.
We dabbled in some of the main courses as well. A baccalà (£13.95), salted cod fillet with black olives and capers in a cherry tomato sauce was again yummy for the fabulous tomato sauce even if the fish was a little flat. We didn’t mind the buffalo meat escalope (£15.95), but it was a little chewy, and the lemon and caper sauce was quite thick. It was also accompanied by some roasted potatoes, and these were fantastic and fragrant from the use of rosemary.
Most of the desserts were really satisfying. Pastiera, a traditional Neapolitan wheat cake with ricotta cheese and candied oranges (£4.95) had a tasty centre, although the pastry was soft with little body to it. We loved the amaretta (£5.95) for the creaminess of the custard ice cream served with Amarena cherries, the drizzling of Amaretto liqueur and the crunchiness of the biscuit crumble. And a limoncello flavoured buffalo ricotta cake – a traditional dessert from Sorrento – boasted a zingy sweetness and was very comforting.
But the rum baba (£4.95) didn’t appeal as it was too dry and needed more syrup. As for the hot chocolate soufflé with ice cream (£6.25), it was cool to the touch and far too sweet.
As far as Italian chain restaurants go, Rossopomodoro do a rather fine job with their pizzas. Their Neapolitan crusts are authentic in every way and these are the winning element of a visit to Rossopomodoro. But pizzas aside, we enjoyed most of the food at Rossopomodoro. It wasn’t entirely fault free, but it easily beats Pizza Express any day. The service was relatively decent at both venues, although it was rushed at times at the Covent Garden branch.
Also watch out for RossoMusica on the 26 September at Rossopomodoro Wandsworth.
Food rating: 3.5/5
Service rating: 3/5
Prices: About £20 to £30 for three courses, excludes drinks and service.