In Italian ‘La Porchetta’ means suckling pork, and there is ample opportunity to pig out at this Camden pizzeria, where Italian dishes are both large and affordable.
With The Roundhouse over the road, La Porchetta acts as the ideal pre-gig pitstop, rather than attempting to live up to the lavishness of other Chalk Farm and Primrose Hill venues. In keeping with this, exposed metallic pipes and vents on the ceiling exude an industrial, grunge effect, whilst pop art pig prints cover the walls, adding a splash of vibrancy to an otherwise earthy colour code. The dining floor extends to a raised and secluded area, cordoned off by walls and a glass partition. This section overlooks an open kitchen on the restaurant floor, a small area where a chef is heard noisily toying with pizza dough.
Sing-a-long rock classics further emphasise the relaxed and youthful atmosphere soaked up by the pre-gig diners, couples and young families who flock here. La Porchetta even attracts some Italian revellers looking for their pizza fix. And Italian waiting staff happily chat with them in their native tongue, as well as giving menu recommendations to the more indecisive diners. All this combines for a fun and laid-back experience, which is truly the Italian way.
Primarily a pizzeria, La Porchetta is all about hearty pizza and pasta dishes, to the extent that those craving other Italian options may be best off looking elsewhere. There are some good garlic bread and focaccia options on the antipasti menu, yet actual starting dishes are lacklustre. Antipasto misto (£6.95) offers a good spread of cured Italian meats ideal for sharing, dished up with marinated olives. It’s a very simple dish that might disappoint those looking for extravagance. Disappointingly, bruschetta di montagne (£5.95) is even more basic – a few strips of roasted pepper balanced on top of a tiny mound of goat's cheese, all served up on dry, toasted bread that desperately needs a spread of pesto or olive oil.
Luckily, main courses options are far more appealing. Pizzas are gigantic – certainly big enough to share – which means that starters can easily be avoided altogether. There are over thirty pizza toppings on the menu, all featuring fresh and traditional Italian ingredients. Bufala pizza (£10.95) is mounted with rocket, Parma ham, chunks of fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes, all making for a traditional and tasty flavour combination. Pasta at La Porchetta is just as filling and flavoursome, with many authentic dishes to please Italian cuisine connoisseurs, such as rigatoni puttanesca (£8.25), spaghetti Bolognese (£7.95) and tortelloni ricotta e spinaci (£8.95). But for something a little more original, try linguine mare e monti (£10.95), with light pasta, peeled tiger prawns and chorizo bathed in a rich white wine and tomato sauce.
There are a few more authentic selections for dessert, like tiramisu (£3.95), sorbetto al limone (£3.95) and affogato (£3.95), which champions in-house Lavazza espresso poured over its simple vanilla ice cream. However, profiteroles (£3.95) are a bit less conventional, the cream-filled pastry buns coated in a peculiar, chilled chocolate mousse that isn’t particularly refined.
Wines come from around the world, bucking the Italian trend. The Pico Alto Chilean sauvingnon blanc (£14.95) is crisp and refreshing, perfect for cutting through some of the heavier dishes on the menu. Wines range from £14.50 up to £29.95 for a bottle, making the drinks as reasonably priced as the food. Refreshingly, Moretti lager is available on tap for £4.50 a pint and other beers come by the bottle, like Peroni, Corona and Erdinger Weissbeer. After-dinner liqueurs, or indeed, pre-gig spirits include vodka, gin, rum and whiskey, and range from £2.95 to £3.95 a measure. Italian specialities are also available to add a bit of kick to proceedings, including limoncello (£2.95), grappa (£3.10) and amaretto Disaronno (£2.95).
The Last Word
The menu of huge and appetising main course dishes is very reasonably priced. Unfortunately, antipasti and dolci menus fail to live up to such high standards, but laid-back, pre-gig diners will probably not be too affected by this shortcoming, and will likely be more wowed by La Porchetta’s rustic and youthful atmosphere and approach.