Acciuga, 343 Kensington High Street, London W8

The food is as authentic as it is comforting at old-school Italian Acciuga, says Lisa Markwel.

Sometimes you just want to eat something simple, like pasta pesto. There's a reason why so many harried parents give their children pasta pesto, and why their children seem to live on it. It's a soft, squishy, tasty comfort blanket.

The other day, I wanted to eat pasta pesto. It had been a tough day, and I just couldn't face either inhaling a burger or committing to a seven-course tasting menu. But there's little more upsetting than bad pasta in a restaurant, and it's all too common. I decided to try a new Italian place in west London that opened recently with not much fanfare and in a slightly odd location. What Kensington lacks in cutting-edge foodie adventures, it often makes up for in steadfast quality (Kitchen W8; Clarke's).

Acciuga (anchovy) looks as if it has always been there, to be honest – its muted colour palette, equally muted artwork, starched linen and posh flatware speak of generations of serving the well-heeled Holland Park set – but it opened only three weeks ago.

When we go in, the front few tables of the long, narrow space are empty. The manager indicates one of these, but I'd rather sit up at the back, in between a French family nattering away happily over antipasti and a couple who look and sound as though they'd given Cook the night off. The menu could not be more old-school Italian if it tried – yes, pasta pesto, but also vitel toné, octopus, white-sausage ragu, stuffed courgette flowers. Oh, I do hope it's good, because there's nowhere to hide on a menu this straight.

It is good. It's delightfully good. The vitel toné – wafer-thin veal covered in tuna sauce – is pretty (not easy for a great blob of fishy mayonnaise), with tiny fronds of cress dotted across the surface, and it tastes dreamy. Actually, this is the comfort blanket. Mr M's baked and fried anchovies are divinely fresh and come with a witty anchovy tin opened to reveal a punchy tomato sauce. At £10 each, the antipasti dishes are expensive, but are generous and of a quality that can command the price.

The primi dishes (my favourite, most carb-laden part of any Italian menu, all at £14) don't disappoint either. There is trofie pasta with pesto, there is lasagne Albese-style (with that white-sausage ragu). The straight-outta-Liguria manager lovingly describes the care with which chef commissions the pesto to be made in Genoa, using only local ingredients. The tangle of twisted trofie (try saying that with your mouth full) is bliss – aromatic and with that tang of good Parmesan and pecorino, and at the exact point of done-ness. Some unadvertised snips of green bean and asparagus add interest, not that any is needed. The lasagne is on the free-form side, with very good meat sprawling across the bowl. Nothing needs seasoning, and chef doesn't have salt, pepper or extra cheese to hand. Confident, that.

We share a pud from a list we ask the waiter to describe – with comic results. Bavarese al caffe is, er, "coffee, Bavarian". OK, then. Berries plumcake is "cake, berries…". We'll have the latter. It is exactly that: sponge cake with some plums in it. From an unfinished wine list, we have a couple of glasses of Montepulciano that do the job, but I want to go back when what I'm told will be a comprehensive array of Italy's best wines are available.

Authenticity is a word often bandied about in the restaurant trade, and not always with honourable intentions. Some of the wilder hybrids we've seen in recent years (Japanese-Brazilian?) just can't be authentic, and other gaffs just stretch the truth, with mozzarella from Holland or "fresh" squid from the frozen catering block.

Acciuga is, it seems to me, authentic. Honest food from a specific area of Italy (Liguria and, stretching slightly, Piedmont) made with clarity and not foolishly overpriced. It is not going to set the world on fire but sometimes, maybe more often than we admit, we'd rather eat to satisfy our stomachs than our curiosity.

And all this from a chef who's 24 and only been at the stoves for three years. Guglielmo Arnulfo is an ex-lawyer and rugby player (from Liguria, natch). Not sure that someone so young was striving for timelessness, but I think that's rather a good thing.

Rating: 7.5/10

Acciuga, 343 Kensington High Street, London W8, Tel: 020 7603 3888. £90 for two, with wine

Three more traditional trattorias

Gusto Trattoria

Intimate and very friendly; excellent, large, thin pizzas; good specials; and good wines, too.

58-62 Lord Street, Southport, Merseyside, tel: 01704 544 255

Sale e Pepe

A roaring Italian-decibel level is part of the unchanging appeal of this crammed 1970s trattoria.

9-15 Pavilion Road, London SW1, tel: 020 7235 0098

Bricole

This pleasant, eat-any-time deli/bistro serves artisanal meats, cheeses and breads, tapas-style, plus tasty pasta.

20 Homer Street, London W1, tel: 020 7723 0040

Reviews extracted from 'Harden’s London and UK Restaurant Guides 2013', www.hardens.com

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    ICE ICT: Lead Business Consultant

    £39,000: ICE ICT: Specific and detailed knowledge and experience of travel sys...

    Day In a Page

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue