Mozzarella and More, 257 King's Road, Chelsea, London

 

How Italian do you like your Italian restaurant? Do you enjoy the full theatricals of gesticulating padrone, chequered napery and yard-long pepper grinder? Would you prefer the Milanese chic of L'Anima? How about the small-plates-of-something-from-Liguria connoisseurship of Bocca di Lupo?

Mozzarella and More offers something different from all these – the Italian restaurant from Central Casting, designed with authentic and plausible props without managing to seem real. You come in from the King's Road, past a window display of long garlic strands, dangling salami and a cornucopia of artisanal pasta, pass under a brickwork arch as if entering a castle dungeon, and gaze at rough plaster walls. In places, the plaster is inset with a bricky Catholic shrine featuring a Madonna. Bottles of vino rosso stretch through the room to a medieval-looking stone kitchen.

Words indicative of Italian cuisine have been carved into the plaster – 'bruschetta' and 'focaccia' and 'caffe' and indeed 'pasta' – in case you laboured under the impression that you were about to be served Irish stew or prawn biriyani. All this place lacks is a black-clad widow with a vast bosom and a rosary to give it that vero-Italiano feel. But as cries of "Buona sera!" greet new arrivals and you're shown to the minstrels'-gallery table, you can bear this egregiously kitsch set-dressing.

This is the newest venture from Made In Italy, a company owned by the Sicilian Corsaro family. They've been in Chelsea for 20 years. The original eaterie is a few doors away in the King's Road, but they have five other outlets. Since they sell pizzas, and make their own mozzarella in Battersea, it made sense to start a restaurant devoted to the stuff. The owner Rosalio Corsario's four children – Sarah, Angelo, Giuseppe and Valentina – run the place, and aim to bring Sicilian-Neapolitan flavours to Chelsea palates. They certainly bring conversational flavour – one of my guests, Pia, was born in Sicily, and each sibling came for a chat about her relatives, personal history, Mafia connections; the usual stuff.

The menu is printed on shiny recycled brown wrapping paper and promises lots of homemade stuff – stone-baked focaccia, Malfatti pasta, home-rolled arancini. I've never encountered a 'mozzarella bar' before, so I insisted we try it; Luca, our waiter, offered to regale us with a selection of dishes. Burrata with aromatic ricotta, Parma ham, walnuts and fig reduction was fine, the burrata supple and not too milky. Grilled octopus salad with cannellini beans was pretty average, the octopus velvety in texture but on the hard side of al dente. Parmigiana with aubergines (surely a north-Italian classic?) lacked density of flavour. A seafood melange of calamari and mussels was yelpingly fresh-tasting and lifted by a squish of lemon.

After the cold starters, we ached for some warmth. Two of us tried the evening's special dish, chicken stuffed with pancetta, breadcrumbs and herbs. It was the last word in Italian home cooking – rather short on presentation, a little pale and as-made-by-your-grandmama, but amazingly rich and toothsome. I've had sage-and-onion stuffing a million times but never thyme-and-bacon, and it was good. Sea bream was beautifully cooked and presented, but a little boring, accessorised only by balsamic vinegar and a wholly irrelevant slice of orange.

Angie ordered linguine with lobster and, expecting to see white lobster meat on the pasta, was startled to find half a full-grown crustacean lying on its side with its legs pathetically extended. All the edible bits were delicious with garlic and tomato, but the linguine was offputtingly slimy – it's that Neapolitan habit of adding oil to pasta just after straining it.

I was puzzled that the restaurant didn't think to provide any implements for cracking the crab claws. But then, while friendly, the siblings are a bit lax at waitering. They don't offer bread when you arrive, don't top up water glasses, don't clear away empty wine glasses, don't bother with a dessert menu. Perhaps they feel it's a bit beneath them.

Puddings were interestingly elaborate. I ordered rum baba, and was surprised to find it crammed with slices of strawberry, fruit compote, chocolate buttons (hello?). "If you ordered it in Sicily," said Pia, loyally, "it would come like this." A plate of homemade cannoli pastries filled with cream were lovely. Presumably out of gratitude for our having brought Pia along to entertain them, the siblings bunged us a free bottle of Zibibbo – Muscatel-ish raisin syrup. More a gesture at a liqueur than the real thing.

This was a perfectly OK, simple, down-home Italian supper, but the bill (£260 for five people) seemed to have strayed in from another establishment. Made in Italy seems to be suffering from a touch of Made in Chelsea.

Mozzarella and More, 257 King's Road, Chelsea London SW3 (020-7351 2417). Around £100 for two, including wine

Food ***
Ambience ***
Service **

Tipping policy: 'Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary. All tips and service charge go to the staff'

Side orders: Nuovi Italiani

Cucina Asellina

Try the tagliata (sliced steak) with seared ceps or pasta at this super-slick New York-Italian-style newcomer. Like a real Uptown joint, only friendlier.

336-337 The Strand, London WC2 (020-7395 3445)

San Carlo Fumo

Nibble on small cicchetti plates while you sip cocktails or excellent wine, in a buzzy atmosphere with modern-marble décor.

1 Waterloo Street, Birmingham B2 (0121-643 8979)

Coppi

Named after the great Italian cyclist, choose from tasty cicchetti or serious contenders such as monkfish wrapped in Parma ham with grilled fennel (£18).

2 Saint Annes Lane, Belfast, BT10 (07563 302 367)

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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Day In a Page

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years