I was recently invited to sample the food at Rossella, based in Kentish Town. Prior to them contacting me, I was already secretly keeping tabs on this restaurant on social media, who were making waves with their food and atmosphere. The invite was a perfect opportunity to put those theories to the test.
Rossella is located on a main but quiet street in NW5. Indeed, it shines like a jewel on the street, surrounded by otherwise run-of-the-mill high street shops.
The decor is simple and unfussy, with the exception of a wall of old family photographs charting the history of the place and its owner. They also have a shelf where they sell red wine, limoncello, meloncello and grappa, grown in their very own family vineyard. History, family and tradition flows in every vein of this place and they are trying to bring that family feel to this restaurant – like a home away from home.
To give you a bit of a background, Rossella is owned by the young and charismatic Luca Meola. He and his family hail from Ponte, Benevento. Luca’s father Luigi opened the first Rossella in Seven Kings, a real traditional family restaurant where every member of the family chipped in to help out. This is where Luca learned his culinary skills as a child. After professionally training as a chef and working in a few fine dining restaurants, he had an epiphany and realised that family dining was what his heart yearned for and he finally opened the current restaurant as we see it today.
Cut to the present: Rossella is very much Luca’s baby and is slowly but surely building a cult following of its own. In fact, when we arrived for a late Saturday lunch, people were already starting to queue up. But fear not, this place does take reservations but you will be hard pressed to find a table on a Friday or Saturday night without a booking. No wonder they get rated highly on TripAdvisor and Opentable.
We kicked things off with a refreshing and classic Aperol Spritz each, as a final hurrah to Summer 2018. Apart from the regular menu, they also do a couple of daily specials – a fish, a meat and a vegetarian dish from each section.
In terms of food, we tucked into a delectable Antipasto della Casa (£7) – a fine selection of Milano & Chorizo Salami, Prosciutto di Parma, Sicilian Olives, Sun-blushed Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella and (my favourite) Artichokes.
Even though on the menu it said it was a starter for one, it was actually big enough to nibble between two. It was simple in presentation but brimming with quality meats and cheeses. We paired it with some freshly baked homemade Rosemary Focaccia which, interestingly, was cut vertically into strips rather than presented like a pillow. Overall, a pretty strong start to our meal.
Alongside the Antipasto, we also tried their Zucchini Fritti (£4.0). I was expecting it to be quite thin, crispy and loaded with batter but actually they were thick hand-cut chunks, lightly coated with a non-greasy 00 flour. It was deftly seasoned and had a soft crunch which I loved.
Luca recommended we try the pizza and we were so glad we did. They do Roman-style pizza here instead of Neapolitan (which has more of a thick crust and is comparatively smaller in size). The Roman pizza is a lot thinner and crispier.
We ordered the Feast (£8) . It was absolutely chock-full of toppings: pepperoni, salami, chorizo, mushrooms and red onions. The base was cooked spot-on, well-proven so it wasn’t doughy but still felt fresh, the crust was not too thick and the cheese came across nicely. Believe me, the pizza was really good here. In fact, it was impossible to make Kris part with a slice!
From the very beginning, I had my eyes on the Filetto Di Manzo: chargrilled fillet steak in a brandy and peppercorn sauce, with sautéed potatoes and chargrilled zucchini. At £13.50, it was an absolute steal, considering the portion size and the quality. But not just that, it was seriously delicious too! It had a glistening, peppery, brandy-laced gravy; the steak was rich, meaty & satisfying and the charred vegetables added a mild, smoky taste. With autumnal weather incoming, this is a must-order dish.
All the food was paired well with the family wine from their own vineyard – Aglianico Vino Di Famiglia. It had some lovely berry flavours and went swimmingly well with the steak and the meaty pizza.
When you are invited to review a restaurant, it is difficult to fully gauge the quality of service. So, the best method is to discreetly observe how they treat regular customers. I can totally see why this neighbourhood eatery is so popular. Right from the waitress to their manager Achille to Luca himself, it felt like you were amongst family and friends, eating at your mum’s or nan’s, being lovingly fed and watered. The portions are as big as their hearts, served with love. There is none of that rushed and brusque service that you often find in restaurants today. Here, they actively encourage you to relax and linger for as long as you wish; to slow down and savour some of the good things in life, such as good food and wine and the company of close friends. The food here is laden with soul and warmth.
We had an amazing time at Rossella, stuffing our faces with all the homely and hearty Italian fare. We left the place with some unfinished business: we never got around to trying their homemade Tiramisu, as we were too full from the meal. No doubt, like the rest of their food, this would have been superb. So this will be our No. 1 excuse to return (not that we need an excuse).
I am so envious of Kentish Town residents. Besides boasting of some great locals like The Pineapple and Southampton Arms, they have the fabulous Rossella as their neighbourhood pride and joy. Perhaps its time to move north of the river, eh?
Location : 103 Highgate Road, Kentish Town, NW5 1TR
More information can be found here.
N.B. Our meal was complimentary but all photos and opinions are strictly mine.