As much as we could never overstate or under-rate the restorative properties of the sausage sarnie + lemon soda + black coffee holy trinity, our maiden visit to Stuzzi was a ‘morning after the night before’ job and, as such, the memory is sketchy.
About 15 minutes into our return visit – a Tuesday lunchtime – the place was packed. Folk were either having to get take-outs or hang around for a table, all forlorn n’that.
Stuzzi’s growing popularity’s hardly surprising given the bang-on scran and the laid-back enthusiasm of the good people running the show, who all appear to give a shit about getting it right.
Through the day there’s a selection of handsome looking sandwiches, but we were partying like it was a Tuesday afternoon so swerved them and got stuck into the eponymous ‘stuzzi’. That’s ‘small plates’ for the uncouth. Like tapas. Remember that?
From a welcomingly short menu we hauled in some Polpette, Arancina and a small portion of one of the pastas of the day.
There was also bread, (naturally,) and salad, (appearance’s sake).
The whole lot demonstrated what’s to gain, both for punter and kitchen, from offering a few things done well than a load of stuff done shoddily.
Five beefy-rich meatballs, cut through and moistened with flecks of mortadella, were substantial without being dry, claggy or dense.
As good as they were, (and they were), the sauce they came in deserves its own mention. James ‘Yarkshire’ Martin’s always banging on about San Marzano tomatoes and on this evidence he’s got it right. That sauce, made with them, was greenhouse-y plate-lickingly, tasty.
Point made, James. Now just stop saying ‘batter’ when you mean ‘butter’.
The arancina was a crispy-coated tennis ball-sized sphere of comfort food, but the creamy rice – studded with sweet peas – was given a kick up the arse with a thump of feisty nduja in every other mouthful.
The ‘small’ pasta, (it’s not a tight portion by any means) still with a bit of bite, came napped in a slow-cooked porky ragu that had us dredging the bowl with crumbs of bread. Again. It was only bettered when we doused it in some of the tip-top grassy olive oil that had been put on the table.
There was zepole for dessert; a kind-of-churros-thing that gets dipped into a mug of thick hot chocolate. Each without the other was decent, but you get the full sugary/doughy hit when you do as you’re told and submerge one in the other.
A bottle of ripe Valpolicella Ripasso is, at 20 quid, “we’ll have another” good value (next time), and even with a few beery, espresso-y, add-ons the bill came to a smiley-face total of 51 quid.
The menu’s a bit longer if you fancy going for tea, and although you can’t book during the day you can (and we will) bag a table in advance of an evening.