Peter Morrell and his wife enjoy superb food and choose from a dazzling array of Italian wines at this relaxed and friendly restaurant
The concept of an Enoteca is long standing in Italy, it’s part wine merchant, part wine bar and part restaurant. The emphasis is very much on the quality and range of the wines on offer. These are selected from smaller owner operated vineyards who lavish love and care on the wines they produce. Over time these wine merchants evolved to provide snacks and eventually became full-blown restaurants.
A while ago Enoteca’s started to spread throughout Europe and arrived in London. I recently discovered one of the best examples of this concept. Called Enoteca Rabezzana, it’s located in London’s Smithfield overlooking the historic meat market. Founded by an Italian family they bring to London more than 100 years of Italian wine history having been producing wines in the Monferrato area of Piedmont since 1876.
Enoteca Rabezzana is a bright, cosy eatery with lots of atmosphere. An ornate tiled floor, scrubbed pine tables and comfortable wooden chairs sit in the middle of a veritable wine library which has been curated by personal visits to Italy by the management who get to know the producers and their wines.
Turning to the food, there is a core menu which is supplemented with a range of seasonal daily specials. The core dishes are split into four categories, charcuterie, pasta, small plates and fish or meat. Daily specials when we dined included a venison starter and a duck breast main.
To start my wife had a special, squid with fake spaghetti (more of that in a second), cooked in black squid ink and server with a confit of Datterino tomatoes and samphire. I chose grilled octopus with beans, ‘nduja and shallots.
These were both outstanding dishes, my wife’s squid had the fresh taste of the sea. We judged that the spaghetti was seaweed, it didn’t matter because is was delicious. The topping of samphire added an extra salty/crunchy dimension. My chunky octopus was tender and equally as satisfying as the squid. The beans were cooked in stock and the ‘nduja, a soft salami, was on the right side of spicy which gave it an extra lift.
Both starters offered precise, deep, powerful flavours and these were enhanced by a board of warm and fluffy home-made bread.
We asked the very knowledgeable manager to recommend a wine pairing. My wife had a glass of white, the Alois Greco, Ponte Pellegrino from Campania. This showed good floral and fruity notes on the nose and on the palate it had a pleasant buttery texture. There were hints of pepper and it had lively acidity. My red was the Aldegheri Dindarella 2013, this was a light wine with powerful aromas and flavours. The bouquet showed cherry fruit and was joined by floral tones in the mouth. It had a good finish.
For the mains my wife continued with the seafood theme choosing the tagliolini pasta with squid, prawns and datterino tomatoes, I also had a pasta dish, tagliatelle with guanciale and onion in a tomato sauce topped with pecorino cheese
Again the seafood was fresh and flavourful and the house made pasta had just the right texture. My food had a real punch to it. Guanciale is rather like pancetta but the cut of meat cured is the pig’s cheek. When it’s cooked it yields a powerful flavour from the natural fat which melts into the pasta and tomato sauce to create a culinary delight.
For this course my wife’s white wine was the Gulfi Carjcanti from Sicily. This was intriguing, it had a deep golden colour and distinct spice and citrus on the nose, there were touches of wood on the palate and it was pleasantly full bodied. The finish was strong and fruity. My red wine was the Guiseppe Cortese Langhe Nebbiolo 2015 from Piedmont. This is the younger brother of the renown Barbaresco wines. It was big and bold showing good cherry flavours with hints of leather and quite ‘grippy’ tannins making it dry and a good match for the rich pasta. The finish was strong and persistent.
Desserts were beyond us as the portions of the first two courses had been generous. If you do have a sweet tooth then temptations like panna cotta are available
This was a memorable dining experience, a combination of good food, a unique wine list and friendly staff who will help us get just the right match of dishes and drinks. This is an excellent venue for people who appreciate quality Italian wine and food.
Enoteca Rabezzana run dining events with the focus on particular wine regions of Italy. The next dinner on 29th January 2019 sees the pairing of food with wines from Tuscany. The latest events can be found on the restaurant’s Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/EnotecaRabezzanaLondon
Expect to pay around £25 a head excluding drinks and service. There is also a good value lunch on offer with two courses and a glass of wine for £20.
62-63 Long Ln, London EC1A 9EJ
Phone: 020 76 000 266