17 November 2008
224A Tower Bridge Road
Tel: 020 7403 4704
By Gavriel Hollander $
FOOD IS as essential to the well-being of the Mafia as double-breasted suits, greased-up hair and dolled-up 'goumahs'.
From the lavish wedding feast at the start of The Godfather to Henry Hill stirring those meatballs as the FBI closes in on him at the climax to Goodfellas, the Italian mobster is never far from a tray of his mother's baked ziti.
Marlon Brando is even alleged to have stuffed a couple of dough balls into his cheeks (and a few more into his gut) to get the Don Corleone look just so.
"I know this is hard for you to believe," says Anthony Jr to his parents in an episode of The Sopranos, "but food may not be the answer to every problem."
Now, if I know anything about fictionalised versions of life in the cosa nostra, and I like to think I do, such a statement is little short of blasphemy. I certainly wouldn't dare say it to the proprietors of The Don, whose Tower Bridge location means there are plenty of fishes nearby I could be sleeping with unless I play my cards right.
Luckily the staff of this well established Italian eatery were as welcoming as Brando at his son's nuptials. And their Sicilian chef brings a genuine touch of the Old Country to the simple yet sumptuous fare on offer.
The Don has been an institution alongside the banks of the Thames since it opened a quarter of a century ago. Now, the owners have expanded the business to take over the upper floors and turn them into a club for some after-dinner boogying.
The lavish interior upstairs, designed by the gregarious and charming manager Romeo, provide the perfect setting for a night on the tiles Italian-style. And with the Christmas party season about to kick in, he expects the rooms overlooking the river to be packed with revellers on a nightly basis.
Now, I know from Ray Liotta that Saturday nights are for wives and Fridays for girlfriends, but he never told me what I should do with myself on a cold, wet night in Shad Thames.
Given which, I decided it was the best excuse to stuff myself silly with some hearty Italian classics alongside an old friend and a nice bottle of Chianti.
I started with one of my favourites, melanzana tricolore, a mouth-watering combination of aubergine, tomato and parmesan. Although a slightly meagre portion, the freshness of the tomato sprang off the plate and straight up my expectant nostrils.
My friend's bruschetta certainly looked the genuine article and was again piled high with those flavour-packed tomatoes that make cuisine from the boot-shaped peninsula so irresistible.
My main course of mushroom ravioli was unspectacular but solid - exactly what you want on a miserable November evening in fact. And it was a joy to see some proper sunflower-sized ravioli as opposed to the drab supermarket variety sometimes offered up.
The highlight however, if one does not count the wonderfully kitsch Italian euro-pop seeping out of the speakers, was my companion's risotto alla pescatoro. Overflowing with prawns, squid, clams and all sorts of seafood goodies, it was a feast for every sense. Or at least so she told me, as your long-suffering correspondent was spared nary a morsel. Charming!
Luckily, I was already stuffed to the gills, but before I could make my excuses, a waiter rolled out the dessert trolley. I had every intention of resisting but the cappuccino cake was truly an offer I couldn't refuse.
Well, you know how it goes with the Mob: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in…"
2 x Bread £4
Ravioli Funghi £9.45
Risotto all Pescatora £11.95
Torta Cappuccino £3.95
Black Coffee £1.95
FOOD (1-5) 3.5
AMBIENCE (1-5) 3.5
PRICE VALUE (1-5) 4.5
DISABLED ACCESS YES
DISABLED TOILET YES
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RAILTON ROAD SE24,
Leasehold, For Sale
TEA TRADE WHARF SE1, £1,295,000 , For Sale
TOWER BRIDGE WHARF E1W, £550 , per week, For Sale
PROVIDENCE SQUARE SE1, £1,600,000 , For Sale