Restaurant Review: Di Monforte, N1
Rob Bleaney enjoys a taste of Sicily in an Islington restaurant where Italian cuisine stays true to its roots
Ask any Italian in London and they will tell you 95 per cent of the restaurants claiming to produce food from their homeland are imposters.
The pizzas are not light enough; the pasta is not handmade; the fish is always wrapped in something it shouldn’t be; and the meat is drowned in sauce.
All the restaurateurs claim everyone else is doing it wrong, but the proof is in the pudding, and Angelo Giorgianni keeps producing.
This genial Italian hails from the picturesque Sicilian village of Monforte San Giorgio - which give Di Monforte its name - and quickly gained a faithful clientele when he opened three years ago.
His promise to offer a truly authentic taste of Italy saw him doing 300 tables a week, but that dropped to 20 a week when the place went “contemporary” when he stepped aside for a while.
Now Angelo is back again, and the food is back to its brilliant best.
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One of the best things about Italian food is the antipasti, and the spread here is fantastic.
As we sat down to enjoy a couple of delightful bottles of Sicilian wine alongside a lively Saturday night crowd, stuffed mushrooms and aubergine emerged from the kitchen alongside fresh mozzarella, perfectly flavoured bruschetta and princely Parma ham.
Next came a plate of wonderfully light and fluffy salt and pepper squid, quickly followed by some beautiful scallops and prawns.
All the pasta of course, is hand made on site, and the freshness and quality of the lobster ravioli that appeared next was a revelation.
All the ingredients are imported direct from Italy and all the recipes are cooked fresh to order, so a little patience is required. But nothing is overcomplicated.
The huge whole sea bass, for example, is cooked with rosemary and thyme inside it to give its perfectly white flesh a flavour to die for.
And the meats are simply grilled and seasoned with herbs so that the true flavour can come through.
We sampled chicken with sun-dried tomatoes, fillet steak with a mushroom sauce on the side and lamb cutlets with white wine, all of which were top drawer.
Finally, in this feast fit for a king, Angelo produced some sublime homemade amaretto ice cream and a tiramisu so light and fluffy that you almost worried it would float away.
It’s all served up in a charming, stylish setting with wood floors, leather seats and pictures of Monforte San Giorgio on the walls.
Apparently there is a village near Angelo’s Italian hometown with six or seven restaurants where you just turn up, pay your 25 Euros and are brought the most amazing fish until you drop.
It’s a wonderful image, and there is no doubt Sicilians are among the world’s best when it comes to food, but they would have to go some way to top Angelo’s sensational sea bass.