When I knew that my lovely friends Linda and George would be in London for Christmas, visiting from Spain where they live, and staying with me for a few nights over new year, I suggested we went to Masaniello for a new year’s eve dinner. It was an obvious choice for me: Masaniello has become a firm favourite, from meeting friends there for dinner or lunch, celebrating my birthday there in April with family (10 of us), to my son and daughter-in-law going there for their wedding anniversary. And really, it just has to be grandson Freddie’s favourite place: what nearly three year old isn’t going to love fabulous pizza and ice cream and friendly staff who will high-five him and make him feel welcome in a way that only Italians can to a toddler in a restaurant! Masaniello also has the wonderful advantage of being an easy walk from my house – no need to rely on public transport or worry about drinking on New Year’s Eve.
When I went in to book a table a couple of weeks ago I saw co-owner/head chef Livio who was enthusiastic about the special set menu he was planning for the evening. He was clearly going to pull out all the stops to make this dinner something special. And he certainly did. It was really wonderful.
When we arrived and sat down, we found the evening’s menu was wrapped festively in red ribbon, and we were also given the usual wine list.
Straight away, a glass of Aperol spritz arrived with some fried pizza dough balls. This was perfect to sip and nibble on while we decided what to eat.
There were four choices for both starter and main course and three desserts. It was truly hard to choose as I could have happily eaten everything and it all sounded so good, I didn’t know what to have. Should it be the ‘Carpaccio di Manzo’ – thinly sliced seared beef fillet platter – or ‘Homemade ravioli filled with wild mushrooms & burrata served with red wine, shallots and chestnut sauce’? In the end, based on my main choice, I went for ‘Burrata Cremosa’ – burrata with warm green pea soup, semi dried cherry tomatoes, croutons and hazelnuts’.
It looked beautiful. Masaniello always serve excellent burrata so I knew it would be a particularly good one, but the soup was so delicious and made a wonderful accompaniment. Linda and George chose the same starter: ‘Gamberoni Imperiali’ – gently fried king prawns with prawn bisque and crunchy vegetables.
This looked fantastic too and they said the prawns were delicious and the bisque excellent.
Oh it was so hard to choose the main but in the end I went for ‘Homemade chestnut pappardelle pasta with braised wild hare ragu, Parmesan and red wine’. I’d not eaten hare before and because Masaniello’s slow cooked beef ragu on their ‘usual’ menu (although it changes regularly) is one of the best I’ve ever had, I couldn’t resist trying this one and I was intrigued by the idea of making the pasta from chestnut flour. It all worked brilliantly. Linda asked if the ragu was gamey and it wasn’t, but was something a bit special and different for a special meal.
Linda’s choice was ‘Filetto di Rombo’ – pan fried turbot fillet with spinach, heritage baby vegetables, mussels and aqua pazza (light fish broth) salsa’. This too looked very good, was beautifully presented, and she enjoyed it a lot.
George meanwhile chose ‘Tagliolini all’astice’ – homemade thin long pasta with Canadian lobster, cherry tomatoes, garlic, chilli and parsley.
When he turned the lobster over it was easy to access the succulent meat and he really enjoyed it.
We were expecting dessert next and then weirdly, just as I had the thought that I should later tease Livio about not offering the Italian traditional new year’s eve dish of cotechino and lentils, the waitress brought little plates that she put before us and said she was about to serve some. Cotechino is a sausage made from all pig’s parts (perhaps akin to the Scots serving haggis) – for more about the sausage and an Italian new year’s eve meal, click here.
A dish was put in the centre for us to help ourselves. We were feeling quite full by this time so took only small portions. The ‘sausage’ was wonderfully soft and tasty but quite strong tasting – meaty – so I wouldn’t have wanted to eat a lot or have had it as my main dish. However, I thought it was a delightful idea of Livio’s to serve it and there were a lot of Italians in the restaurant so cries of excitement were thrown up around us when they saw what was coming.
I’ve written before about the excellence of Masaniello’s service, always friendly, helpful staff and wonderfully efficient. Despite it being busy last night, the restaurant filled with excited people as 2018 drew near, the standard never faltered and everything came with a smile. Did we want our desserts straight away or to wait a bit, our waitress asked. It was so good she thought to ask us and we said we’d wait a bit. When we were ready, my ‘Pastiera Napolenta’ – wheat and ricotta cheese tart served warm with cinnamon ice cream – looked very inviting and was delicious. The heavenly softness of the filling with the crisp pastry was a delight to eat, the cinnamon ice cream a perfect accompaniment.
There was a pistachio tiramisu on offer, but both Linda and George chose ‘Sorbetto al Panettone’ – homemade panettone and prosecco sorbet.
I’d expected the panettone to come separately but it was part of the sorbet and apparently very delicious. It certainly looked like a fun dessert in the tall flutes for the end of a special meal.
I was the only one to want a coffee. We’d also shared a bottle of wine through the meal. Wine starts at very reasonable prices in Masaniello from £14.50 for a bottle of Sangiovese to the most expensive at £42.95 for Valpolicella Ripasso. We drank a Nero d’Avola from Sicily for £15.95 and it was very good. We also had some sparkling Pellegrino water. The set menu was £49.50 a head, which included all food and the welcoming Aperol spritz.
It was after 11pm when we finished; we’d arrived at 8. We’d eaten at a gentle, relaxed pace and the meal had been really special, the atmosphere lively and perfect for a new year’s eve celebration. We decided however to head back to my house for midnight and to watch the London fireworks on TV with a glass of fizz to welcome in 2018. It had been a great way to say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the next!
A very happy, healthy and peaceful 2018 to all my readers. I’m always appreciative of your support, your likes and comments, which makes writing this blog, a great passion of mine, all the more rewarding and wonderful.