It was a very spontaneous thing. I was at my son’s, playing with 3-year-old Freddie in the garden, and just before midday Jonathan said, Let’s go to Masaniello for lunch. Thus we gathered bits together for a 3-year-old and 9-month-old and bundled everything and everyone into the car and headed into central Twickenham.
Masaniello is our favourite place. We go there for birthdays, anniversaries, new year … or simply because we fancy Italian for lunch or supper. Thus it’s a very familiar place for 3-year-old Freddie. He’s even learnt to say ‘Ciao‘ to our Italian friends and calls me ‘nonna‘ (Italian for grandmother). He’s been going there since he could sit up and eat real – as opposed to baby – food. For his 2nd birthday (midweek) I picked him up from nursery and took him there to meet his mum and dad who were coming straight from work. When Freddie and I arrived and I said it was his birthday, Freddie became the centre of attention. He was allowed to feed the goldfish in a tank at the far end of the restaurant, the waiter drew him a picture and gave him paper and pen (even though they don’t really do that kids’ stuff). Freddie may have been too young to understand birthdays but he must have understood he was special. Since then, when I’ve passed the restaurant with him, waiters have called ‘Ciao, Freddie’ and will high-five him when we go in.
If you’re going to eat out with a small child, then really you can’t do better than go to a restaurant run by Italians. Italians – in general – love bambini. My family think Masaniello is the essence of a good local restaurant; everything a local restaurant should be: friendly, relaxed, a great place for all occasions and all the family, and serving fantastic food.
They don’t have a kids’ menu as such. What they do is let you choose something from the menu and serve a smaller size for £4.75. This is great because some kids’ menus are very limited (or worse, they think kids only want to eat the kind of awful stuff that you’d never serve them at home). At Masaniello they eat the same wonderful, fresh food as you – just a smaller size.
Freddie is always given a choice of pizza or pasta by us, and although yesterday it was a definite ‘pizza’, he will often choose pasta. Then we ask if he wants tomato sauce or meat sauce. He has a particular liking for their Ragu’ Napoletano – slow cooked meat ragu served with pasta. But then we all do! It’s one of the best ragu I know.
Yesterday’s choice was Pizza Margherita – a simple, classic topping of tomato, mozzarella and basil. The ‘small’ size is so big, I’d be happy with it. Freddie didn’t manage to eat it all but they packed up the uneaten half for him to take home. They always bring a drink for him in a plastic cup, have child-size cutlery is you want (though fingers work well for pizza!) and offer booster seats for little ones (which 9-month-old Benjamin sat on). Freddie thinks he’s big enough for a grown-up chair now.
Meanwhile, Nonna tucked into Snella pizza (£10.50) – with tomato sauce, mozzarella and grilled vegetables. One of my favourites.
Freddie’s mum, Lyndsey, had Hamsik (£10.95) with artichokes, olives and mushrooms on top of the basic tomato sauce and mozzarella. Dad Jonathan had a special – a folded-over pizza that had a ricotta-based filling and slices of Parma ham laid on top, which was excellent. I was given a taste!
We all loved our pizzas. It really is one of the best places I know to go for pizza. Livio – head chef & co-owner – comes from Naples, where pizza originated, and his family ran a pizzeria there. He’s told me about flying in a pizzaiolo (special pizza cook) from Naples to come up with the best recipe for Masaniello’s kitchen and oven. That kind of dedication shows in the quality.
Even 9-month-old Benjamin enjoyed chewing on some of the crust from his mum’s pizza. When you know it’s made with such good and authentic ingredients, even an enthusiastic baby, beginning to experience ‘real’ food, can join in.
Both boys attracted lots of attention from the staff. Our waiter kept exclaiming about the bellissimo baby, who smiled widely back in appreciation of the attention; the waiter also talked frequently to Freddie.
Freddie’s love of gelato is pretty much on a par with his nonna‘s, thus he always wants ice cream for dessert. They’ll serve just one ball of ice cream for kids, if you want a small size. I can’t remember what they charge and my son paid for yesterday’s meal, but it’s a fairly nominal amount. There was a choice of flavours and it came with a wafer – but Freddie grabbed the wafer as soon as the dish was put down and it was in his mouth before nonna managed to get her iPhone out for a photo!
It was a lovely lunch. We all enjoyed the food and I can’t think of anywhere more perfect for a family outing with small kids.