21 July 2008
32 Forest Hill Road
East Dulwich, SE22 0RR
020 8693 7877
Homely Italian is a runaway success
By David Yuill
BUSINESS may have started slowly at this backstreet Italian restaurant, but consider East Dulwich’s best kept secret now well and truly out.
Forest Hill Road’s Si Mangia, the baby brother of Crystal Palace’s Lorenzo’s, is contemporary Italian cuisine, partnered by the relaxed and laid back atmosphere that makes weekly visits very possible to the 5,000 households lucky enough to be within walking distance.
We chose to dine on a Thursday night as this brings something a little bit special to Si Mangia – it’s live accoustic night and those who have wised-up to it already plan their ‘eat-out budget’ around it.
On top of the high standards and top quality, unique food that gives each dish the taste of Mamma’s own Neapolitan kitchen - Thursday nights provide a real treat, with a rotation of local talented musicians.
Seated front and centre – myself and my other half were treated to ringside seats for guitar playing vocalist Huw Price, a soulfully decadent blend of Jack Johnson and Robbie Williams’ attempt at Swing.
His versions of R Kelly’s ‘I Believe I can Fly’ and Ludacris’ ‘Georgia’ combined with Sinatra’s ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ and ‘I got you under my skin’ distract you from the real reason you walked through the door.
By the time the Mediterranean staff returned with our drinks, neither of us had looked at the menu. With the quick-snap choice of the special Seafood Salad already off the menu having flown out the door; I opted for the Garlic Prawns (£5.95) to start while the missus got the Antepasta Italiano (£4.95).
Her combination of Italian meats and cheeses, from salami to prosciutto and bocconcini and mozzarella , my prawns – still in their shell but chopped down the middle – were perfectly cooked and swimming in a well-seasoned garlic sauce, all mopped up with un-shareable homemade garlic bread. So with kissing off the menu until the After Eights come out, it was back to the music.
The mains arrived, interrupting Huw in full flow in his last song before a well-deserved break – leaving us to delight over the feast in front of us.
My better half’s dish – Nero di sepia allo scoglio (£11.95) – brought together brilliant king prawns, scallops, clams and squid in a garlic and white wine sauce over a bed of fresh cuttlefish ink pasta.
As a seafood lover the Anglo-Italiano across the table was going to take some impressing and the ear-to-ear smile, combined with a scallop muffled groan of enjoyment meant success.
My Salciccia Napoli (£10.95) was a wholesome, flavoursome and very Italian dish with heavily spiced Italian sausage and a thin and salty pancetta with borlotti beans. With the choice of chips, roast potatoes and pasta – even the missus almost choked when I went with the recommended pasta. Not overdone or chewy to bite, not quite bland or overcomplicated – just melt in your mouth and a perfect tonic to the explosive sausage.
With barely enough room left inside for that After Eight mint, it almost felt rude not to give the Italian ice-cream scoops a go, or two. And yes it was worth it.
Loosely translated from the native tongue as ‘it is eaten’ – Si Mangia is more than that. Si Mangia has finally given the forgotten side of East Dulwich the fine dining experience and front room feel, after many attempts of varying success along that short strip.
It is simplistic. It is good. It is Italian and it is proud. It is once bitten, never forgotten and before you know it, manager Lorenzo’s number is on speed-dial.
½ Peroni £2.50
Glass Pinot Grigio £3.25
Bottle Pinot Grigio Rose £14.50
Antepasta Italiano £4.95
Gamberoni (Garlic Prawns) £5.95
Nero di sepia allo scoglio £11.95
Salciccia Napoli £10.95
Irish Coffee £3.50
FOOD (1-5) 5
AMBIENCE (1-5) 4
PRICE VALUE (1-5) 4
DISABLED ACCESS YES
DISABLED TOILET YES
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