A polished trattoria in the heart of the City serving simple and hearty (but certainly not faultless) Italian food.
Taberna Etrusca is wonderfully situated just a little walk from St Paul's Cathedral. It gets very busy with office workers at lunchtime, whereas during the evening shoppers from the nearby One New Change gather for a more relaxed dinner. The décor is a bit dated but it does feel authentic: motor racing memorabilia alongside prints of the Tuscan landscape adorn the walls, and the tables are nicely laid out with crisp white linen and napkins.
If you're looking for a warm and authentic, Italian-style restaurant, this is quite close to the real trattorias over in the republic. The service is friendly and courteous, and the waiters (all Italian) take good care of their guests even they do also seem particularly keen on making (not unpleasant) comments about them - something that does add to the authentic Italian atmosphere, but which can create a bit of embarrassment if the guest does speak the language. Tut tut.
The menu features a selection of traditional Italian dishes from all over the country. Starters range between £7-£9, with a lot of cured meats, cheese and pickle platters, and a tomato and mozzarella salad, all of which are pleasant enough but obviously not particularly demanding of the kitchen. The deep-fried breaded scamorza is a little disappointing, with too much balsamic overpowering the cheese. The calamari, on the other hand, has a nice texture and a lovely spicy dip with just the right amount of chilli kick.
Main courses are evenly divided between pastas and fish and meat dishes, with the addition of a few daily specials such as the grigliata mista di pesce (mixed grilled fish - £14) which turns out to be a selection of pan-fried fish, served with a tiny side of vegetables that clearly came out of a microwave. Pastas are probably a better option, cooked al dente and well-presented. The salmon tagliatelle, though, is too buttery to fully bring out the delicate flavour of the salmon.
The wine selection is very pleasing, relying heavily on Italy's heritage, featuring some very popular grapes (Chianti, Pinot Grigio etc.) and some others that are a little less common and definitely worth a try - including bottles of Aglianico (from Basilicata and Campania) and Vernaccia (from San Gimignano in Tuscany). Prices are very reasonable, with house wines starting at £16.
The Last Word
Despite not offering exceptional food, Taberna Etrusca can be a good spot for a sharing platter of antipasti and some wine if you are nearby.