Restaurant Review - Dolcetto, N1

Jon Dean tries traditional Italian cuisine at a new Chapel Market pizzeria

WELL known as a lively night out and littered with bars and restaurants boasting all manner of world themes, Upper Street is also the kind of culinary sea on which a new restaurant could easily get lost.

Duck round the corner, however, and Chapel Market seems far from this madding crowd.

A relatively blank canvas punctuated with only occasional splashes of nightlife, and it is in these more laid-back surroundings that Dolcetto - the latest addition to Islington’s roster of eateries - has taken root.

Located on the site of a former cafe that had been empty for some time, owners Jack and Emma Allen have placed an emphasis on affordable quality in all aspects of their venture.

The interior is done to a high standard - large windows allow plenty of natural light to splash over the wooden floorboards and rendered brickwork and the pizza oven is in full show of the restaurant, allowing you to see the maestro at work.

The wine list is small but well formed and the house red had a fruity taste that belied its modest price tag.

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When it comes down to it, this is all merely dressing for the main event - the food. Luckily Dolcetto is well endowed in this department too.

The menu is fairly traditional Italian fare, but extensive and holds a few surprises.

A wide range of pasta dishes jostle for position with an array of pizzas, which in turn share the limelight with such meaty delights as veal topped with aubergine and parmesan and grilled sliced steak on a bed of rocket and parmesan.

The specials board also held its own, and from this we picked my starter - huge butterfly prawns barbecued and swimming in a delicious garlic and lemon sauce. Without doubt some of the finest crustaceans I have ever had the honour to taste.

Our other starter - also very pleasant but overshadowed somewhat by the butterfly prawns - was a prawn and avocado in a lively cocktail sauce.

Once the appetisers had been demolished, with the oven winking at me seductively from across the room, I felt duty bound to try a pizza.

I plumped for the Capricciosa, on which artichokes, ham, mushrooms, pepperoni and olives all vied for my taste buds’ affections. All the boxes were ticked: a light crispy base and lashings of toppings, but it was the cheese, which I am assured is top quality buffalo mozzarella, that really made this pizza a joy to eat.

Our other main was seabass fillet in rosemary and olive oil in potatoes, which was as tasty as it sounds. The fish was light, with good texture and was well-infused with the rosemary, while the potatoes basked in their own fluffy goodness.

Dessert, for me, is often something of an anti-climax, possible due to my inability to leave anything on my plate during the first two courses.

However, after being recommended the tiramisu, we forced ourselves to try a bit and were not disappointed. Creamy and rich, it is small wonder that people come to Dolcetto for this pudding alone. For the record, we also managed some banoffee pie, which was very tasty too.

Dolcetto is not a ground-breaking restaurant, but neither does it claim to be. It offers a wide variety of good quality Italian dishes at very reasonable prices and with various offers and lunchtime specials representing great value for money.

I shall no doubt be returning to what is a very welcome addition to the N1’s gastronomic landscape.

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