Il Pasticcio offers an excellent combination of great food and atmosphere, both of which should put a smile on your face.
This small venue situated on the rather unattractive south side of Finchley Road, next to Swiss Cottage tube, used to be a cafe. The uninspiring exterior belies a restaurant with a dozen tables and a large counter display showcasing brightly coloured vegetables and mouth-watering cheeses that will truly tantalise your taste buds.
The narrow dining room is warm, comfortable and casual, with walls adorned with a quirky mishmash of Italian memorabilia for a unique, nostalgic feel. Admittedly it is bit cramped but this in no way takes away from the experience. Waiters are friendly and give polite service. The tiny tables outside are also perfect for finishing off a glass of wine after your meal come summertime, and add a little al fresco flavour to the unfortunate location of the venue - uninvitingly overlooking a huge road junction.
The cuisine is also comfortingly traditional; all dishes are beautifully presented and the quality of the food is amazing for the price: a generous portion of mozzarella, tomatoes and avocado that two could easily share as a starter comes in at just over £5. Pastas are simple but perfectly prepared, the different sauces are balanced by sautéed vegetables and spices and meats. Main courses are around £10 for a quality fish or meat dish, such as the vitello con crema di funghi: the veal fillet, smothered in a creamy, velvety mushroom sauce, is just cooked to perfection and almost unfeasibly tender.
The wine list features a selection of relatively ordinary and moderately priced bottles that boast a bias towards Northern Italy. Some interesting options include a soft and smooth Bardolino and a light and crispy Soave at £16 each, though neither of these is likely to be the highlight of your dinner.
The Last Word
It might be not worth the trip if you are not nearby, but Pasticcio remains a very welcoming and cosy restaurant. Its food is tasty, filling and pretty reasonably priced.