This article is written by our guest author Zeren Wilson.
Tucked away down a nondescript street in the guts of Bermondsey, there’s an Italian gig that has been doing its thing for local residents and City boys without too much fanfare and without miles of column inches.
Chef patron Riccardo Giacomini will celebrate fifteen years of Tentazioni this coming autumn, and together with the Tentazioni delicatessen just around the corner, it’s something of a ‘Little Italy’ in microcosm in this corner of SE1, close to The Thames.
Riccardo is particularly proud of his pasta, a long list of fresh pastas permanently available. Ravioli with pumpkin and amaretti, fresh pappardelle with various ragus, plump tortellini filled with veal Ossobucco, as well as his signature tagliatelle with butter and black truffle – it’s a playground for the pasta fiend.
We kicked off with a creamy Pugliese burrata cheese, some cherry tomatoes and basil completing a simple yet elegant dish – think of it as a ‘pimped’ up mozzarella tricolore salad of the kind which you’ll find, far less impressively, in most High Street Italian gaffs. The quality of the burrata was excellent, oozing in all the right places, decadently, almost scarily creamy. It’s health food, right?
Another starter dish of risotto with quail and a disc of foie gras, tricked out with some Marsala wine, showed the kitchen doing the simple things well. Risotto will show up a slack kitchen instantly, potentially veering into a soupy disaster or a chalky undercooked nightmare – no such issues here, the rice cooked perfectly while retaining all of its texture and integrity. The quail was advertised as boneless yet wasn’t quite, a minor niggle, as the little bird was still plump and juicy and seemed to enjoy nestling on a creamy bed of rice.
We ploughed on straight into the pasta. The tagliatelle with butter and black truffle has been on Riccardo’s menu since the start, the musky funk of black truffle doing its thing amongst some of that fresh pasta.
Pappardelle with goose ragu with shavings of a thirty month aged Parmesan, was another satisfying hit of pasta with a ragu that didn’t smother, just enough ragu to let the quality of that pasta shine through. Shards of quality Parmesan added welcome hits of umami packed flavour.
The interior lends itself to sweet nothings whispered into the ears of a lover, all sumptuous dark reds, low level lighting, and sleek white chairs, so it’s not a place for raucous and lively banter. The business meeting would feel quite at home here too.
The wine list wraps an arm around you and welcomes you in with a £16 Gavi from Produttori del Gavi, and then makes all the right noises for the wine geeks like me. Good to see a couple of wines from the excellent Cantine di Terlano, the Alto Adige co-operative that makes consistently good wines which are always great value and put many other Italian white wine producers in the shade, and here the Terlaner blend is a runaway hit at £22. Big gun reds from the likes of Sassicaia may attract the expense accounts, but it’s seeing the Barbaresco 2004 from Produttori del Barbaresco at £40 that shows this is a list that has been chosen with some care – they are the best co-operative winery in Italy.
The dessert list is short and unfussy, and we chose the classic Tiramisu, which pressed the right buttons, and a perky Sicilian lemon sorbet as an end of meal livener – both were excellent.
This ain’t a place that will win awards or plaudits for being trendy, attracting the ‘A’ listers, or for being the funkiest flavour of the month, but fifteen years is a testament to essentially being a local restaurant that has garnered the regular diners which keeps any restaurant afloat, long after the trend seekers have moved on to the Next Big Thing.