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He took time out of last minute preparations to tell Square Meal a bit more about the restaurant, his influences and his plans for the future.
So, what can we expect from Rotorino?
Simple and delicious southern Italian cooking, great wines, and a warm East London welcome. I've put together a menu with a broad price point and a straightforward format so you can have a simple plate of pasta and a glass of wine for less than £10, or go all out and have a four-course Italian feast.
Are there a lot of influences from your time at The River Café?
I learned a lot at the River Café but the most important lesson was to have the confidence to cook delicious simple food without ego or apology. But my style has moved on a lot since my time there: it’s a bit rougher, in a way more fun, and definitely cheaper than Rose and Ruthie's [Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, founders of The River Café].
How will Rotorino compare to Dock Kitchen?
It's simpler, and more focussed on what the diner wants to eat, as opposed to what the chef wants to cook. That's not to say it isn't creative, head chef Alex [Jackson, former head chef at Dock Kitchen] and I have been working on some great new dishes and we'll keep on coming up with new ideas. Rotorino is a local restaurant I could eat in everyday.In a way Rotorino feels like my first restaurant opening and I couldn't be more excited.
What's the menu like?
Classic dishes like caponata and spaghetti bottarga sit alongside new ideas like fried pig’s head terrine with mustard fruits, or chicken stuffed with ricotta. I've tried to keep quality high but the prices down, fresh pasta starts at £4.50 and mains from £10.
And there’ll be a fully-fledged bar?
Absolutely, it is a really important part of what we’re doing. Jonathan Downey [behind Milk & Honey etc] is the main backer of the launch, and he introduced Ruth Spivey [founder of Street Vin] to the project very early so she has brought together a wonderful list of great value wines. We have also tried hard to ensure that the bar works well as a stand-alone, grown-up, local destination in an area that currently doesn’t really cater that well for anyone over the age of 25!
Why have you chosen Dalston to open in?
I’ve been looking to open in east London for a while now. It's where I live and I love this part of town. When I saw it, I immediately loved the space and the location and knew we could do something special with it. It just felt right.
And what’s the name all about?
It took a while to come up with something we all liked, something Italian that also sounded right for Dalston. I like to say it's 'a made-up Italian word for a made-up Italian restaurant.’ We’re British after all and the restaurant is in London, so although we’ve been inspired by the wonderful ingredients and dishes of southern Italy, we’re definitely doing things our own way.
And what’s next after Rotorino?
I absolutely see myself opening more restaurants, but we’ve got to get this one right first and that’s what we’re focusing on. We’re in the process of crowdfunding Rotorino and, if successful, this will give us funds for some extra working capital as well a little war chest for the next project, which will probably be something along similar lines.
Rotorino opens on 10 April, see our full listing here.
If anyone is interested in investing in Rotorino, they should keep an eye out on crowdcube.com.