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Restaurant Review: Ruben’s Refettorio, Twickenham

July 6, 2013

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When I stopped by at the lovely Ruben’s Bakehouse at around 8 am this morning, en route to pick up Jonathan, Lyndsey and Zeph the Puppy and drive to Kent to visit my family, work was still in progress in the Refettorio. I’d popped in to buy one of their wonderful sourdough loaves and a cake to take with me and workmen were still finishing the new refettorio – an informal restaurant/pizzeria – to be opened this evening. Marco was rather uncertain they’d be ready in time but I was pretty sure if Igor, owner and baker of Ruben’s, was determined to be ready, then they would be open.

Arriving back in Twickenham late afternoon we decided to go to Ruben’s for a pizza this evening. I suggested that as I drove home after dropping Jonathan and Lyndsey at their house, I stop at Ruben’s to check the Refettorio was open. It was not only open at 5.30 but the wood-fired pizza oven was going full blast with pizza chef Daniele preparing pizzas for the people already in there.

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I decided asking to reserve a table for later might be a good idea. Jonathan and Lyndsey came round to my house for an aperitif around 7 pm and then we wandered down the road, barely a 10-minute walk, to Ruben’s Refettorio. We were welcomed so warmly it felt delightful to be there and join in the celebrations for the opening. There was a buzz of excitement that this next stage of Igor’s dream was being fulfilled tonight. A guitarist was playing as we were shown to our seats at the wooden tables and Igor went off to bring prosecco for our complimentary glasses.

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We knew they didn’t have a drinks licence but Igor said we could buy wine from the off-licence just down the road, so after we’d ordered our pizzas, Jonathan offered to go for the wine –  and appropriately came back with a good Italian red. The menu was simple on this first night: just a choice of four pizzas. Lyndsey and I chose Capricci0sa and Jonathan had Diavola.

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What makes these pizzas a bit different is that Igor uses his wonderful sourdough starter for the dough. But first came a little complimentary (on this first night) salad with pecorino cheese.

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The cheese was wonderful with its slightly sharp, nutty flavour and grainy texture. The rocket and tomato salad was nicely dressed with oil and balsamic vinegar. We were settling nicely into our evening. There was a good atmosphere and we liked the style. Though very simple, there are the little touches that reflect Igor’s former career as an interior designer: the purple walls – Ruben’s colour – and the matching serviettes tied with a little string and card inscripted with Ruben’s Refettorio’s name. Lyndsey commented that it reminded her of some of the places she and Jonathan visited when travelling round Italy on their honeymoon; it really did feel like being in Italy. And when the pizzas came … well, Naples and Di Matteo (one of Naples’ most famous pizzerias) came into the conversation.

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The pizzas are thinner than a usual Napoli version; but while the Romans do a thinner pizza, Ruben’s sourdough base gives you something quite different: still thin and crisp but the most glorious flavour. These pizzas are really quite special and we all agreed, in the top category of all we’d eaten in our lives, including in Italy. I’d arrived really wanting to like the pizzas because Ruben’s Bakehouse has been such a wonderful addition to Twickenham, not only for its amazingly good bread, pastries and cakes but for the sense of community it spreads; it’s a lively hub of activity as people comes and go, practise their Italian, chat and befriend each other. And there was no disappointment here: the pizzas really are, very, very good; they are wonderful.

We were very full by the end so when Ellie offered dessert we said no, but then she suggested we share one; a ‘kind of’ bread and butter pudding with cream and strawberries.

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She brought one bowl and three spoons. It was delicious. Then we had coffee before heading back down the road. We were all very certain that Ruben’s Refettorio is going to be a regular haunt. How could one resist such amazing pizzas just a few minutes’ walk down the road! And in such a friendly and relaxing atmosphere. Igor really has achieved his dream of bringing a little bit of Italy to Twickenham.

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