In a nutshell
A really sweet, family-run restaurant off the cobbled streets of Shad Thames, just a short walk from Tower Bridge, serving traditional Italian food in a roomy, modern space. You walk through the deli to be seated in the dining room, so you can take home cured meats, olives, or fresh pasta on your way out.
Two Italian families set up the Valentina fine foods, and they work closely with executive chef Massimo Grippa to create authentic, traditional food.
The menu plays safe, but but it’s done very well. Expect dishes like carpaccio, gamberoni and caprese to start. We had the fritto misto – a mix of calamari, courgette and king prawns. Mains are Italian restaurant classics such as fiorentina pizza, linguine with lobster and cherry tomatoes or calf’s liver fried with onion and white wine. We plumped for ravioli filled with soft ricotta in a white wine and chiodini mushroom sauce, generously scattered with parmesan. My guest had a simple salsicce (Italian sausage) pizza, which was topped generously with flavoursome cheese and thin slices of salami, with a thin, crisp base.
The portions are large, and the price very reasonable. Go for authentic pizzas, pasta and classic starters in a relaxed atmosphere.
The garlic bread – you’ll want to order two! Thin, crisp, edges and a chewy, buttery middle. It’s slashed before being baked, so you get extra, crisp edges.
What I’ll order next time
The mains of meat look brilliant, but next time I’ll order a couple of sharing plates: the restaurant’s strength derives from Valentina’s deli offering, so I’ll be taking the chance to order salumi, olives or parmigiano reggiano chunks with a glass of wine. They have an assaggi d’Italia sharing menu that includes 6 starters – mixed meats from the deli counter, primavera, arancini and calamari followed by a main to share.
Also, their breakfast menu is enticing – it includes toasted panettone, freshly baked bread, or fried eggs on ciabatta with parma ham. Panini’s are great value also: for £4.95 you can have a ciabatta filled with something from the deli such as mortadella, bresaola and provolone, or mascarpone and asiago – great for eating on the go.
What’s the room like?
Recently refurbed, the room is spacious – perfect for couples, or small groups, with a sweeping bar across one side of the room.
The music. And the fritto misto was a little disappointing. It was in a lovely, light batter, but courgette flowers are available at the moment and would have been nicer than courgette batons. There was nothing to dip the fritto misto into either, so it was quite dry. The prawn was a bit tricky to eat – it had been battered whole and because the shell was tough, and had to be removed, the batter was lost along with it.
What we liked
The extensive Italian wine list, separated into regions, is really impressive – with notes about each region, you’ll spend more time looking at it than at the menu.
Good value food: starters from £4.95 to £7.95, mains are around £10, desserts £5. Wine from £16.45/bottle. There’s also a very reasonably priced fixed price menu – £13.95 for 3 courses.
By Anna Glover
Date of the review: June 2015
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