Italian food is so much more than pizza and pasta. Eating Pizza outside Naples or Rome is like grabbing a pasty in Newcastle – it’s just not authentic. Italy is full of wonderful local dishes that speak of the people that invented them but these regional subtleties are lost on arrival in the UK. Every high street in the country has a chain Italian pumping out nondescript pasta and pizza. Bocca di Lupo aims to set the record straight, offering an incredible range of delicacies, all carefully linked to particular areas – it’s an edible Italian lesson.
The restaurant itself is comfortably central – a few minutes from Piccadilly Circus. The interior is focussed around a wonderful open kitchen with a vast marble bar where you can sit and watch the team work. It strikes a lovely balance between casual and formal, you could rock up in a suit or a t-shirt and feel perfectly at home.
The menu is split into a range of categories: raw, fish, stews and so on. The food is served tapas style and I like that for many dishes they offer both a small and large portion. With a bottle of lovely barbera in hand we set off for a happy jaunt around Italy’s finest food. To start we had a wonderfully spicy ‘Rosamarina’ – fermented fish with chilli. It was hot, savoury and very very good.
The next dish was an “artichoke alla giudia”, an Italian-Jewish staple. It’s an artichoke, lightly crisped in a fryer and thoroughly delicious.
Fried salt cod with courgette chips was surprisingly restrained on the salt front – with really good texture in the fish. I’d have liked a little more colour in the batter, but it was still nicely crisp.
Rabbit orzotto had a fantastic gamey, rich stock - perfect with the delicate meat. The orzo had a really nice texture, just enough body without being overly stodgy.
For me, the star of the meal were the skewers – lamb sweet bread with artichokes on chilli bruschetta. Perfectly grilled, wonderfully balanced and totally unique. Heaven on a stick.
I’d heard a lot of people rave about their roast suckling pig – it lived up to expectations. Fantastically crispy crackling, gooey soft pork and a lovely simple sauce. I was less sold on the chestnuts – they just didn’t fit from a flavour or texture perspective for me. A welcome side of asparagus, gently cooked and doused in lemon juice helped round out the meal.
Some lovely roast potatoes – finished in a frying pan, which is definitely a trick I’m stealing – and a Coratella finished the mains. It’s a rich lamb stew made from most of the insides of the animal. I loved it, but those less fond of offal might struggle with the minerality.
Dessert was a triumph, a trio of perfect profiteroles, filled with silky smooth gelato – the sour cherry and ricotta was especially good. To finish the meaty meal we also had a “sanguinaccio” from Calabria, a sweet chocolate pate, set with pigs blood. It’s really good, the blood just adds a gentle savoury note. If you told someone it was Nutella they probably wouldn’t notice the difference. Pine nuts and mixed peel are a great touch.
It was a fantastic meal – I loved the chance to explore the full breadth of Italian cooking. Great ingredients, carefully prepared and the open bar adds a healthy dose of theatre. The staff were chirpy and happy to guide us (and put up with our frequent requests for yet more food). While it can get expensive very quickly, it’s absolutely worth it. Forget Prezzo, Zizzi’s and Bella Italia (shudder), this is the real deal. Bring an appetite!