Bustling and lively, Da Mario is an authentic and friendly little spot, conveniently located just a stone’s throw from Covent Garden. With some safe menu choices and a reasonable wine list, this place would suit a quick pre-theatre bite to eat – although the prices, relative to the dining experience you get here, may feel a tiny bit steep, and the service a little slow.
Situated on Endell Street, only a few metres from the heart of Covent Garden, Da Mario’s location is perfect for pre-theatre dining – a market which they clearly aim to cater for. With a simple white façade and clean décor inside – white-washed walls, vinyl flooring, tables draped with large white tablecloths and simple black seating – Da Mario feels like a humble, authentic Italian eatery.
Midweek, Da Mario is bustling, fully making use of all those people looking for pre-theatre diner. Booking is recommended here; otherwise expect to wait for a table – and be prepared to wait even if you have booked as things are a little chaotic here, albeit charmingly so. Da Mario isn’t a large venue, with a narrow entrance leading into the dining area itself, but its compactness adds to the bustle, with conversation from both the diners and the Italian staff filling the space. Expect the owners to greet you with a smile, and the service to be friendly and professional, albeit very laid-back – you may find yourself having to rush things along a little if you need to be dining fairly quickly. However, if you fancy staying for a little while, you won't get rushed - which is always a pleasure.
The food here is a perfect match to the restaurant’s décor and atmosphere; simple, authentic Italian. For antipasti, perhaps try the insalata della casa - marinated grilled vegetables with goat’s cheese. Whilst the vegetables themselves may be a little plain, there’s a generous portion of creamy goat’s cheese to make up for it. Alternatively, for something simpler, try the burratina rucola e pomodori – mozzarella with vine tomatoes, rocket, basil and olive oil. Well presented, the tomatoes are fresh and the mozzarella is creamy; it's a good choice.
For secondi piatti, try the bistecca al pepe verde (£14.50) - tender sirloin steak strips served with peppercorn sauce. It might not be beautifully presented but it certainly tastes good. Alternatively, there are plenty of pastas on the menu, or you can go for one of the specials, such as the fusilli with meatballs. With the pasta cooked to perfection and a generous portion of meat, it’s a sound choice.
The dessert selection at Da Mario is good, offering a little bit of everything for the Italian food fan; the crème brûlée (£4.90), for example, is soft and creamy, with a good crunch on top. For something a little different, go for the ciambella con mascarpone e nutell (£4.50); essentially a large warm ring doughnut served with mascarpone cheese and Nutella. The portion size is again generous, even if the dough itself is more savoury than sweet.
The house white here is a decent choice. At just shy of £14, it's fresh and fruity, slightly dry and pleasant enough to drink. There's certainly scope for more extravagant choices, and there's some pretty good value to be had if you head toward the more expensive options as they compare favourably with neighbouring venues.
The Last Word
Simple, bustling and serving humble Italian food, Da Mario is a safe choice for pre-theatre dining in Covent Garden. While the menu choices may not inspire – nor, indeed, represent the highest quality of Italian dining available in London – this restaurant makes for a pleasant enough experience nonetheless.