Gourmet Italian food at mouth watering prices

Daisy Jestico tries out Italian cuisine at the new Carluccio’s restaurant in Muswell Hill


291-293 Muswell Hill Broadway, N10

020 8815 1946

THE well-heeled Twitterati of Muswell Hill have been all abuzz about the opening of Carluccio’s in Muswell Hill Broadway.

And when you think about it, it’s a wonder the smart deli-style caf� hadn’t opened sooner.

After all the buggy-friendly but upmarket Italian eatery is perfect for the area’s affluent mums on the school run.

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And if anyone knows their macchiato from their ristretto and their panna cotta from their panettone it has to be the discerning diners of Muswell Hill.

Yet the restaurant has opened in what must be one of the most jinxed buildings in the area – a string of businesses has been forced to close over the last couple of years citing the credit crunch as the major trigger for a lack of bookings.

Seasoned diners will remember veggie chain Eat and Two Veg taking over from The Well pub at the beginning of last year and serving well for just four months before being forced to shut up shop.

And then the Rendezvous restaurant, which opened to much fanfare in July 2009, came and went in the blink of an eye despite becoming a favoured filming location for independent moviemakers during its short stay.

But it seems unlikely that Carluccio’s is destined for the same fate as its predecessors.

When I visit the restaurant, snow drifts are piling up against the pavements and the normally bustling streets of Muswell Hill are overcast, sludgy and practically deserted. What’s more, a Monday night surely can’t be attracting too many customers.

Yet I’m proved wrong the second I enter. Beaming Italian waiters direct us through the warm dining room packed with families, a children’s birthday party, a group of 20-something girls, and the ubiquitous yummy mummy set exchanging pre-Christmas gifts.

The interiors don’t exactly scream gourmet dining – if I’m honest it’s a bit like a posh McDonald’s, but with boxes of pasta and Italian cakes lining the walls – and the busy food store in the next room can be distracting when you’re sitting down for an intimate dinner.

But does that really matter when the menu is so tantalising you are in danger of choosing everything on it?

Italian is always a favourite for a fussy pescatarian like me, as it’s one of the few times I find I’m faced with more than two options for a main course.

And eat everything we nearly did. I chose calamari for starter and a chilli courgette penne giardiniera for mains – a rich dish of al dente pasta in a creamy spicy sauce. Simply delicious.

Meanwhile my husband ate a mushroom crostini followed by the ossobuco and risotto. I’m told this classic veal shin was even better than his mum used to make, but given she has no Italian roots that I’m aware of I cannot vouch for the dish’s validity.

And what rustic Italian feast would be complete without a traditional panna cotta, laced with a welcome dose of rum?

With food as good as this, Carluccio’s can enjoy a long and healthy – if not slightly filling – stay in Muswell Hill. – DAISY JESTICO

Mains: from �10.95 to �14.95

Wines: from �12.95

Children welcome: yes

Disabled access: yes