Till just a year ago, Enoteca Turi was in a different location, serving cacio e pepe to the good people of Putney. Driven to new pastures by their lease running out, they’ve transplanted to the Sloane Square side of Pimlico Road. Impressively, most of their staff have stuck with them, which tells you a lot about how family-run, your-dinner-is-my-vocation the vibe is here.
It looks like they’ve brought many of their regulars with them too, or nurtured a raft of new ones really quickly. The restaurant fills up with people being welcomed like old friends on the weekday evening we visit.
I never visited their Putney site, so can’t tell you if Enoteca Turi morphed to fit their new SW1 home or if the atmosphere was always this deeply Sloane Square. They’re housed in one of those discreet, elegant frontages you get on Pimlico Road, with dark, tasteful awning and a line of small shrubs separating it from the street.
And the insides match the outside. The things Enoteca Turi isn’t: edgy, ironic, informal or cheap. This isn’t a rustic Italian trattoria where things get a bit loud, and arms get slung over each other’s shoulders, people clapping you on the back and pouring another digestivo. Enoteca Turi’s extremely civilised, in a polished, slightly reserved way. Not stuffy. Just… gentle.
I can confirm it’s the right place for catching up with your father after a long time in different countries. And it’d be the right place for unwinding with wine and pasta after a long day, if you’re less into cutting loose and more into having your cares soothed away. It’d be the perfect date night for politicians, eminent professors, the clientele of Pimlico Road’s antique shops – anybody with no interest in flashiness but a lot of interest in good food and extensive wine cellars.
Our rabbit starter comes as a pretty, colourful dish, small bits of meat heaped with ricotta, and drizzles of oil, and twists of chicory. But the rabbit itself is underwhelming: a little tough, and not strong enough a flavour to make itself felt against the creaminess of the ricotta or the bite of the chicory. That’s an exception to the series of good-to-great dishes that follow – surprise highlights coming from the least flashy, most everyday dishes we order, like the grainy-textured, spring-green flavours of my father’s broad bean starter. Or the simple velvety pepperiness of the cacio e pepe pasta, or the near-savoury punch of the olive oil ice cream.
The menu bounces across different Italian provinces – but in a formal, clearly identified way, dishes labelled with their region. It’s an ambitious approach – however faithfully traditional a London restaurant tries to be, are you ever going to live up to the determinedly granular distinctions of Italian cooking? I’ve seen friends who grew up one hill – barely a kilometre – away from each other in Brianza, argue for hours over the right way to make bruschetta. The city-state mentality is still strong when it comes to what goes in your tortelli.
Ultimately the emphasis on regional Italian distinctions here feels like something of a red herring. Serving really good food at the sleeker, more formal end of London’s Italian restaurant offering, this feels, more than anything else, like a neighbourhood restaurant for exactly this neighbourhood. Shortly after our visit the menu’s nearly unrecognisable, taken over with spring flavours. It’ll be this mix of freshness and familiarity that keeps Enoteca Turi’s new home crammed with old friends and recently-created regulars.
Enoteca Turi, 87, Pimlico Road, SW1W 8PH. 0207 7303663. Website.