This is the immortal Italian of Chelsea, cool and classy since 1975.
La Famiglia is tucked away on a pretty, mainly residential side road just off the Kings Road, in the heart of World’s End. It’s fairly easy to get to by bus but taxis predominate in this neck of the woods. Once past the narrow entrance there are two main dining rooms and a large covered terrace at the back, well heated with patio lamps. Downstairs there is a private room for hire that seats 20 but watch out on those steep stairs. On first glance only the waiters’ white uniforms remind you this is posh restaurant. Both the exterior and interior are non-intimidating, the retro blue and white colour scheme, complete with tiling, is refreshingly unselfconscious. The black and white photos on the walls, of Alvaro the owner and his family and friends, give the two main rooms an old school warmth.
The clientele is broad in terms of age range, Sundays are a favourite for families but there are an equal number of younger and older groups at any given time. La Famiglia has long been a haunt of the less ostentatious rich and famous. Chelsea footballers, trendy socialites and film stars are always amongst the crowd. They usually choose to sit on the terrace for relative anonymity. In fact photography, albeit celebratory, is not encouraged. There is a definite presence of wealth, but it’s subtle. The waiters are attentive and friendly and all in all the rooms feel boisterous but relaxed.
The menu has something for everyone. There are 15 ‘antipasti’ or pre-starters, not including soups or the weekly menu, ranging from £3.50 to £10.50. The sliced raw tuna sprinkled with tomato, onions, peppers, lemon and olive oil (Tonno alla San Corrado) really whets the appetite. Because the tuna is so fine it doesn’t overwhelm its companions; this particular blend of simple flavours, each distinguishable from the other, is crunchy and soft at the same time, well seasoned but not too oily. There is also a huge choice for vegetarians like the Panzanella, a famous Tuscan salad with tomato, cucumber, celery, bread and basil. The risotto with cuttle fish ink sauce is slightly alarming to look at and don’t whatever you do speak with your mouth full, your teeth will temporarily be on the dark side of black, but it’s worth it for the unusual combination of colour and the springy, thick texture. The flavour is reminiscent of squid and altogether less generic than so many seafood risottos.
The Pappardelle al Cinghiale a.k.a. fresh, hand cut, egg pasta with wild boar sauce is sublime. Wild boar is a strong meat, somewhere between pork and lamb, with a full on flavour, so this is a rich sauce with a rich eggy pasta, it’s very filling and don’t be disappointed that the portion isn’t vast. It’s like the best Bolognese you’ve ever had with a heftier taste. There are ten main fish dishes, ranging from £9.50 for the fresh grilled sardines to £19.50 for the monkfish sauteed in lemon, garlic and parsley. If you’re a real meat lover, go for the organic salt marsh lamb steak or loin of lamb in breadcrumbs with fresh chopped mint. The steak version is, as the menu warns, extremely rare but it’s tender, juicy and unspoilt with garlic and rosemary and as a side dish the deep fried marrow flowers are a welcome alternative to chips. They’re quite soft on the outside because the oil is fresh as a daisy, but then there’s the unexpected crunch when you get past the batter. Heaven.
There is no dessert menu, but better still a dessert trolley. You can ask and see what everything is, from tiramisu to trifle, profiteroles to chocolate mousse. The Torta della Nonna, Grandma’s cake, is a light almond tart with a lemony tang and sweet hard crust, it’s perfect if you don’t have too much room left in your waistband.
There are all the usual suspects for a Tuscan trattoria of this ilk. In the red corner there’s a decent house Chianti or if you want to spend £50 there’s a stunning Sassicaia. There are of course, whites, spirits and champagnes but if you want to really fit in go for an Italian prosecco like a Berlucchi instead, or even the rose.
The Last Word
This is a haven of unpretentious, excellent food in the posiest of postcodes. It’s a great place to go in a group, as a family or a deux and you definitely get what you pay for.