Paesan’s a good ‘un. It looks good, it sounds like good times; hell, it even smells good when something uber-garlicky wafts past. The menu’s simple to navigate, and, unusually for rustic Italian, there’s even plenty to please the pickiest Paleos out there. Oh but with such carby delights on offer, why resist? Bruschetta with pecorino, pea and mint was a wonderfully summery starter, while ‘crochettes’ with anchovy sauce were salty, savoury and delicious. Warm aubergine caponata wouldn’t be my first choice to serve with burrata (particularly on such a scorching day in the city), but it was a rich and unctuous combination. The accompanying pane carasau, a flatbread from Sardinia, was crisp, paper-thin and particularly moreish having been soused with peppery olive oil.
The mains didn’t disappoint either. Risotto was spot on, with an abundance of plump prawns and traces of saffron creating a sunny, amber glow. The Sicilian special of bucatini with sardines was a smidgeon on the sweet side, but still summery, fresh and tasty. The Italian wine list offered welcome tasting notes, and our Bardolino proved to be a fitting food wine for such gutsy dishes. My only qualm was that portions were almost too generous; a vast sea of pappardelle with rabbit and wild mushrooms nearly defeated the biggest man at the table, while I barely made a dent in my trio meatballs on wet polenta.
Puds, served in tumblers, looked fairly ordinary but were utterly gorgeous. Tiramisu was the favourite, but pistachio ice cream with a splash of amaretto came a close second. Espressos were fiercely strong (just as they should be) and topped off a delightful meal.
We loved Paesan. Despite hogging our table for nearly four hours on a busy Thursday night, there were no polite nudges to shift us to the refurbed basement bar. It was decent value too, which is heartening given there’s something really iffy about charging a fortune for ‘peasant’ food. We racked up £50 a head for our whole evening’s entertainment, but that included aperitivos, two bottles of wine and three courses each. Bellissima!