db Eats: Il Tetto
db’s Lucy Shaw heads to the roof of Selfridges for an Italian feast involving creamy whipped cod, silky pumpkin tortelli and a cherry-laced Nerello Mascalese.
The concept: London’s love of Italian food has reached fever pitch. While just a few years ago we had The River Café and Locanda Locatelli at the top end and Spaghetti House and Zizzi at the other, a recent explosion of stylish Italian venues like pasta palace Padella in Borough Market, Stevie Parle’s Palatino in Old Street and The Clove Club’s Luca in Clerkenwell have filled the hole in the middle.
Such is the hunger for a slice of la dolce vita that barely a week goes by without an email pinging into my inbox announcing the latest Italian offering in the capital – Stevie Parle’s Pastaio in Soho, Flour + Grape in Bermondsey, and La Tagliata in Fitzrovia to name but three.
Carbs are firmly back in fashion and entrepreneurs looking to open new London ventures seem keen to jump on the Italian bandwagon while the trend is white hot.
Until recently Brits haven’t been willing to splash out on pizza and pasta dishes they felt they could easily cook at home for a fraction of the price, but the popularity of Padella, with its snaking queues night and day, proves that Londoners crave homemade pasta festooned with quality seasonal ingredients.
Aware of the trend for all things Italian, Selfridges has chosen an Italian theme for the latest incarnation of its ever evolving rooftop restaurant. Opening in October, Il Tetto (meaning ‘the roof’) will enjoy a year-long residency at the department store.
Launched in collaboration with Des McDonald of Caprice Holdings fame, the casual modern Italian offers a seasonally focused all-day dining experience.
The décor: Inspired by traditional trattorias, Il Tetto goes big on rustic chic. On my visit it felt like being amidst the bounty of a harvest festival, with giant threads of garlic and chilli brightening the entrance, terracotta pots overflowing with herbs and bunches of dried flowers and poppy pods hanging above our heads.
I half expected a beautiful Italian bride to walk in and start stomping grapes in a giant wooden barrel. The rustic chic lends itself to the summer months, and seemed slightly at odds with the chilly London weather, but it offered a pleasant respite from the cold as thoughts turned to twisting Tuscan landscapes bathed in golden sunlight.
The food: Head chef Luca Terraneo worked with Francesco Mazzei at L’Anima for over a decade, and his experience is evident in his food. Working with seasonal ingredients sourced from across Italy, Terraneo serves classic Italian dishes with a contemporary twist.
The menu is short and sweet, split into antipasti, pasta, pizza, secondi and dolci. I was delighted to see baccala mantecato on the menu – a heavenly Venetian snack of fluffy as a cloud whipped air-dried cod. I discovered it during a trip to the Veneto and have spent many a night yearning for it ever since.
Made by soaking dried cod in a pan for a day or two then whipping it into a frenzy with olive oil, Il Tetto’s version, served on little polenta plinths, was as light, creamy and indulgent as the Venetian original. While the meat croquettes were a little dried out, the accompanying spicy mayo was dangerously addictive.
My companion’s giant Tuscan sausage and wild mushroom pizza delivered a symphony of salty, savoury flavours and came blanketed in earthy black truffle.
Signature dishes: Restaurants used to be judged on the quality of their steak tartare, but now burrata seems to be the barometer. Terraneo’s offering arrived drizzled in 12-year-old balsamic vinegar that added a sweet tang, while toasted hazelnuts provided crunch, and ribbons of celery and radicchio refreshment.
The standout dish of the evening was a humble bowl of silky, butter bathed pumpkin tortelli flecked with crispy sage leaves and salty Parmesan tuiles. Earthy, comforting and umami-rich, it was a truly delightful dish.
The drinks: The wine list is brief but offers a tour of some of Italy’s leading grape varieties and regions. Sourced from Bibendum, among the drops we enjoyed were an appetite-whetting flute of Bisol’s Jeio Prosecco; a zippy Greganico from Sicily with notes of white peach and orange blossom; and a cherry-laced Nerello Mascalese from Etna.
Negroni lovers will enjoy the restaurant’s playful twists on the Italian classic, from one made with truffle-infused gin, to a barrel-aged Negroni with Antica Formula, Noilly Prat, Punt e Mess and Lillet rouge all in the mix.
Don’t leave without: Leaving room for pud. While my warm polenta orange cake with orange syrup and mascarpone was lovely, my companion’s lemon semi-freddo with meringue and lemon curd had the edge due to its beguiling balance of sweet and sour flavours, which Matthew Hayes, the former executive pastry chef for Corbin & King, may have had a hand in.
Last word: While there are better Italian restaurants in London, Il Tetto is bang on trend and wonderfully fun. I imagine it will come into its own in the spring when the sun comes out, the mercury rises and the Prosecco corks start popping.
Il Tetto at Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London W1A 1AB; Tel: +44 (0)20 7318 3287