There are few things more Italian — or more delicious — than a few paper-thin slices of Parma ham with a large glass of wine. At Bagatti’s, this traditional treat transcends the sublime.
But this is jumping the gun. Should you find yourself in Croydon’s South End, you are hardly short of an eating option — the main drag is bursting with restaurants of every imaginable cuisine. They all jump up and down (metaphorically) to grab your attention, with offers, deals and lurid signage. Not so Bagatti’s. The restaurant has an unassuming exterior and, while delightful within, doesn’t go for overdone décor.
And, judging by the buzz, it doesn’t need to. Bagatti’s soon fills up, with couples, families — the Italians are renowned for their love of children and welcome them into restaurants from an early age — and a lively birthday party. If you are planning a visit, it would be advisable to book, particularly if there are three or more in your party. The waiting staff are efficient and attentive, and host Peter Bagatti is very much in evidence — flitting here and there with a genial smile and watchful eye.
Back to the Parma ham. It appears on the menu in various guises, but occasionally as a special. When it does, grab it — this particular part of the porker has been aged for 24 months. It has basically hung around and done nothing for two years. We all know people like that. The result? Silken in texture, deep wine-red in colour, and the flavour is sweet and nutty. If it's not listed as a special when you visit, ask your waiter.
If that fails, fear not — Bagatti’s still has plenty of other delicacies to tempt the taste buds. If you are boggled by the choice of 14 starters, an excellent solution is to order the quadris — four portions served on a platter, for a minimum of two people (£8.90 per person). This is new to the menu and comprises garlic and chilli prawns, calamari, bruschetta and mozzarella fritti. The prawns are served on the half shell and soak up prodigious amounts of both seasonings; the calamari is crisp and light and piping hot; and the fried cheese is delightfully decadent. Simple bruschetta with tomatoes and basil sets it all off nicely.
Another recent addition to the menu is pesca spada — a gorgeous dish of meaty swordfish (£16.80) cooked with white wine, lemon and garlic. It is served with pasta, with courgettes and tomatoes napped in a rich crab and lobster sauce. Crab also features in a house special, tagliatelle nere Bagatti. The ‘nere’ is the homemade black pasta, given rich depth of flavour as well as colour by squid ink, and served with a generous mix of crab, squid and king prawns with chilli, tomato and rocket. It is nothing short of a triumph and exceptional value at £12.80. In fact, it's worth visiting Bagatti’s for this alone.
The Italians love their coffee almost as much as they love their puddings and they combine the two brilliantly. So if your belt is bursting but you still yearn for something sweet, you could opt for the coffee of your choice — from cappuccino, espresso or regular — with a slice of tiramisu or biscotti (£5.55 or £4.55). Other offerings include panettone bread and butter pudding, a gloriously decadent delight worth every penny of its £5.55 price tag. All you need thereafter is a glass of something gorgeous...
Who says the age of miracles is past? A new addition to Bagatti’s drinks menu is toffee vodka (£3.90 a shot), the nectar of the gods. If you’re feeling brave, there is also Jagermeister Freddo (semi frozen), but that’s possibly the way madness lies. Far less risky is the wine list, with a very drinkable Trebbiano (£15.60 or £4.35 a 250ml glass) or a lush-sounding Prima Pietra di Vento, with cabernet and merlot grapes, at the same price. There is also a Pinot Grigio Blush, that most affable of rosés, at an undemanding £18.50 a bottle. House champagne is £43.80, while Prosecco, pink or white, is £24.80.
The Last Word
This Italian gem has established itself as an major player in the South End scene, providing seriously good food. Bagatti’s is certainly no bagatelle.