Itís more like a quaint, family-run trattoria that, as a tourist, youíd stumble upon while meandering through the tiny cobbled streets in Italy; rather than a restaurant found on the busy St Paulís Road in Highbury, London. But thatís all part of Trulloís appeal.
Inside is a welcoming atmosphere where the aromas of freshly produced dishes waft from the buzzing open kitchen. Romantic lighting casts a warm, amber glow that oozes from the large glass windows out onto the dark street. In contrast to the heavy, dark wooden floor and chairs, there are brilliant white tablecloths upon every table, with low-hung lighting creating an inviting mood over each dish.
Itís Friday night and by 7:30 p.m., Trullo is already heaving with eager first-timers and loyal customers spilling downstairs to the second dining area. Itís no secret that this place is popular. Itís been given the seal of approval by many food critics since it first opened its doors in June 2010, including the notoriously hard to please Giles Coren. ďIíve been twice in the past three days, and Iím going back on Friday. I may review it again next week. I may not bother going anywhere ever again,Ē said Coren in The Times. Praise indeed!
Its menu is a simple, two-page affair, proffering seasonally focused, Italian-inspired cuisine broken into sections of antipasti, primi, oven, charcoal grill, dessert and cheese. The highlights are the pasta, which is rolled in the kitchen just minutes before itís served to your table, as well as the fresh fish and meats cooked over burning coals. Thereís not a huge amount of variety, but the beauty of Trullo lies in its simplicity and the fact that everything it does, it does exceptionally well.
Our waiter, whoís confident, chatty and has heaps of personality, helps my friend and me choose our three-course meals along with recommending a delicious wine. The wine list is exceptional as well, with an expert selection from regions across Italy, and a range of by-the-glass options "which change to suit the produce in the kitchen and the English weather". Iím keen to try the fresh pasta, so when my heaping bowl of fat tagliatelle with Violetta artichokes and Amalfi lemon arrives, I dive straight in. Itís good, very good. The yellow, slithering pasta is cooked to perfection and coated in a divine, creamy sauce, cut only by the acidity of the lemon.
Across the table, my companion is digging into a rich-looking, glossy pappardelle with beef shin ragu. Heís impressed as well, explaining that the taste and textures work together seamlessly. By this time, the restaurant is full, with diners chatting away, creating a hum of noise. Despite it being busy, we donít have long to wait for our main courses. Iím served a generous portion of burrata, Castelluccio lentils, agretti and spicy tomato sauce. The white, creamy mozzarella cheese is melt-in-the-mouth soft, with the texture of the large, flavorsome lentils complemented by the tang of the tomato sauce. This isnít a la carte, intrinsically designed food; the main focus here is the flavor and quality, with brilliant results.
My friendís Black Hampshire pork chop is cooked with just the right amount of soft pink flesh in the middle and served with baked borlotti beans and salsa verde. Our waiter persuades us (it doesn't take much) to try dessert. The choices are blood orange jelly with vanilla ice cream; upside-down rhubarb and almond cake; chocolate and quince tart and salted caramel ice cream. I go for the salted caramel which is a faultless combination of sweet and savory, a perfect end to such an outstanding evening.
As owner and Head Chef Tim sums up nicely: ďTrullo exists for one reason - to provide simple and exciting food, rooted in the UK but inspired by Italy, at a reasonable price.Ē