Located at the end of Exmouth Market, this family-run Italian restaurant is just about worthy of its place alongside all those illustrious neighbours.
With the likes of Morito, Moro and Caravan dotted along this pedestrianised strip, Exmouth Market is something of a go-to place for those that like their food. And those that wander all the way down to the end will no doubt be impressed by Santore’s huge open façade, playing host to busy little al fresco tables sheltered by a deep, dark awning bearing the restaurant’s name. For such a congested street they’ve secured a pretty sizeable venue, with a width that allows for plenty of people to be able to perch themselves right on the bustling market’s edge. Inside is atmospheric and Italian, with loads of exposed brickwork, an impressive wood-fired pizza oven, mosaic tiling and hundreds of bottles of wine giving a nod to the traditional trattoria.
Lunchtimes and evenings on the pavement certainly benefit from the buzz of the market, but inside it’s still quite charming, not least because of the welcoming service from the Neapolitan staff. It’s clear they’re adept at turning tables when it’s busy but it’s all done pretty politely, and you get the impression that if you wanted to lounge around for a bit they’d be happy to accommodate. Jaunty, authentic Italian ditties make things feel a tiny bit clichéd, but they’re usually drowned out by chatter when it’s busy.
The menu reads like a faithful homage to the mother country, with a few bits of antipasti (including some particularly good bruschetta - £2.95) joined by a smattering of mains that don’t venture past the ten pound mark. The linguine al pomodorino fresco (£7.80) is a toothsome combination of baby plum tomatoes, parmesan, recently plucked basil and some very good quality pasta, whilst the lasagne (£8.45) is also pretty good too, with a decent enough ragout helped out by an excellent béchamel sauce that makes things beautifully creamy.
The pizzas, though, are perhaps the best way to go, with an extensive selection cooked impeccably in that wood-fire oven. They’re availably by the ¼ metre (another reassuring nod to how they do things back home), and even a simple margherita (£6 per ¼ metre) is worth a try, with quality mozzarella, parmesan and more of that fresh basil perking up a decent tomato sauce. If you do want to go for something a little more interesting though, the primavera (£7.80) showcases a deft hand in the kitchen, with just the right amounts of mozzarella, marinated aubergine, basil olive oil and beef tomato, topped with loads of fresh rocket. Desserts are the usual Italian suspects, with a perfectly fine tiramisu (£3.60) being the pick of an okay bunch.
A surprisingly short wine list features a couple of inexpensive Italian whites and reds, with the Sicilian Nero d’Avola representing pretty impressive value at £8.90, even if it’s not the best example of the grape. Peronis and Moretis (£2.10) come in 330ml bottles but if you want to keep things soft then Cokes, Sprites and all the usual carbonated lot are present and correct. Coffees are strong, as you’d expect.
The Last Word
If you can nab yourself one of those pavement seats then this is a great place in which to sample the buzz of Exmouth Market. Inside is less inspiring, but still worth dipping into if you fancy some affordable Italian fare.