Where: Il Piccolo Diavolo, Crouch Hill (nearest station Crouch Hill or Finsbury Park)
What: Italian Restaurant – open during the day for sandwiches and cakes and in the evening for evening meals
When: our Anniversary dinner
Who: me and GB
A couple of weekends ago, GB and I celebrated our three year Anniversary! We had a lovely weekend – cocktails at the Cuban Bar in Camden on the Friday night, a sunny afternoon spent watching the Olympics on Saturday and a romantic meal in the evening at a local restaurant which has recently opened on our street.
It had come recommended to us from friends who live nearby and as we both love Italian it seemed like the perfect choice…
This family run restaurant sits just off the main strip of restaurants on Stroud Green Road where chains such as La Porchetta and Pappagonies are favourites, buts that,s no bad thing. Nestled on it’s own quiet street at the bottom of Crouch Hill it’s worth the extra two minute walk and crossing of the road as it boasts a relaxing romantic feel where the hustle and bustle from the local Wetherspoons won’t bother you and the prices are a lot more pocket friendly than the mark ups of the chains.
As soon as you step inside you feel like you are in Italy, not a posh Italian restaurant as such but a street side cafe or eatery that, if on holiday, you could imagine sitting outside of with a glass of wine on an evening. As it had been a scorcher of a day and we had wandered down from our flat in summer clothes that’s exactly how it felt for us! Everything from the checked red tablecloths to the candles in beer bottles and the large carafes of wine added to it’s cheerful charm.
A family run business we were served by the owner himself who kindly put up with my indecisive nature and slowly went through all of the options and specials with me, making recommendations along the way and giving us time to mull it over with a glass of wine.
We ordered a litre carafe of wine which at only £12 we were convinced would be like vinegar but were pleasantly surprised to find it perfectly palatable.
For starters we shared a portion of bruschetta and a portion of bolognese bites both of which were delicious.
The bruschetta came on crusty bread and was heaped with topping, (too little topping on a bruschetta is my pet hate) the dressing was gorgeous and made the bread go that soggy salty way where I found myself mopping up the excess with it at the end.
Our second starter (I can’t remember the real name so I’ve improvised) was basically bolognese meatballs with a melting mozzarella cheese in the middle, rolled in breadcrumbs and baked until gooey. Served with a cooling dip, the hot and cold tastes together worked really well and the portion was just enough to wet our appetite for the main event.
For our main meals we both took the reccomendations from the owner after much deliberation and went for the specials. I can often be a bit set in my ways with Italian knowing what I like after many years and sticking to it, but boy was I glad I’d tried something different this time.
The owner told us confidently that ‘you can’t go wrong with any of the fresh pasta dishes’ a rather bold statement to make if it hadn’t been for the fact that it turned out to be absolutely true!
Mine was fresh ravioli squares filled with porcini and champigionge mushrooms covered in a light tomato based sauce with fresh cherry tomatoes, chilli and rocket. The portion size was just right as filled pasta can be so… erm… filling sometimes and the flavours were amazing. The mushroom and cheese filling was totally more-ish and the sauce had just enough kick to fire up your tastebuds but not so much that you couldn’t taste the food anymore.
GB went for a salmon filled ravioli with a cream sauce served with shrimps and considering the empty plate I think he enjoyed it as much as I did mine.
If I had to pick a fault (and it’s a small one as I really don’t want to) it would be the desserts. To be honest it’s not a complaint of this restaurant in particular but rather all Italian restaurants, I’m just never that impressed with the desserts. As a Scot to me a pudding is something hot, sweet, stodgy and delicious but in Italy it’s all about the coffee cakes and the tiramisu’s and the light ice cream based cold delicacies and I’m just not a fan…
The desserts at Il Piccalo Diavolo change every day depending on what has been made fresh so I’m sure there is usually always something to suit but this particular night everything was coffee based which neither myself or GB are very fond of… but I did get some rather yummy chocolate ice cream smothered in chocolate sauce and to be honest I was so stuffed I probably couldnt have eaten more than that anyway!
Our whole meal which consisted of three courses each and a litre of wine came to a very reasonable £45 which I thought was more than worth it.
The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, there was no urgency to leave, the food was delicious and the drinks didn’t blow the bank, all of which to me add up to a very enjoyable meal out.
If you don’t live in the area this restaurant might be a little out of the way but it’s well worth seeking out as it’s an absolute gem!
(P.S Il Piccolo Diavolo is currently on it’s Italian holidays until the 1st of September but be sure to visit once it re-opens)