Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Saponara Islington Prebend Street review - Charming Italian delicatessen with guilt free pizzas


Address: 23 Prebend Street
London N1 8PF
Tel: 020 7226 2771
Nearest Train station: Essex Road

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: Below £15pp
Service charge: N/A
Taste: ***
Service: ****
Ambience: ***
“There is a nice little Italian delicatessen near the apartment as well,” the Foxtons agent said years ago when she tried pushing a property. We did get the property in the end but not because of the Italian delicatessen or even the picturesque St James’church just beside it but mainly because the rent fit our budget and that was good enough for us.

But we did end up having breakfast almost every week at the Italian delicatessen. Saponara (the delicatessen) ran by the Saponara brothers, Marco and Vincenzo, had the local round-the-corner charm. With its packed Italian inventory (“Sourced only from the best!” as Marco proclaimed to me once) served also as a convenient stop for those who were looking for any Italian provisions that one couldn’t normally find out of the mediterranean country.

While we occasionally drop by for dinner, it got a bit difficult as Saponara used to close after 7 plus in the evening. Although there had been plans to extend opening hours for quite some time, I was under the impression that it didn’t quite materialise.

Even then, Marco was always hugely friendly when we were there and greeted us with a hearty “Bonjourno!” whenever we stopped by. On one occasion, he even brought out travel guides and showed us photos of his hometown, which whereabouts I have unfortunately forgotten. After awhile, we started looking for a change of menu and our weekly visits to Saponara became fortnightly and then monthly. We eventually stop visiting altogether when we moved out of the vicinity.

A couple of weeks back, we passed by the area and thought of dropping in for a cappuccino. Marco greeted us warmly with a “So you’re back!” and went on about Saponara’s new pizza menu. Unfortunately, we had a heavy meal earlier but made a mental note to return. There were some changes made at Saponara though. Two large screen plasma TVs were perched on the walls – one tuned to Yes Italia while the other to BBC. There were also two flags hung up at the store front, that of Italy and Ferrari (no prizes for guess which team the Saponaras were behind at F1). It was a bit livelier but it was still the Saponara that we remembered.

I couldn't help but noticed the Independent article by Lucy Gillmore on the 50 best delicatessens, in which Saponara was one of the small handful mentioned in London, prominently placed on a table and dutifully duplicated by the Saponaras to be distributed among their customers.


We went back the following Saturday, scanned through the list of pizzas and ordered the Saponara (£8.95) We figured that if the pizza was named after the shop, it had to be good. When we asked how large the pizza would be, Vincenzo promptly brought out a plate to show us (around 12 inch), just nice for the two of us. As it was freshly made in the kitchen (we saw a staff prepared it), the pizza took some time to arrived.

On the first look, the toppings of sausages and fresh mushrooms could be more generous but its even spread of cheese and thin crust more than made up for it. If you are looking for Domino styled hard crust, Saponara’s pizzas probably aren’t for you. But it was one of those soft (guilt free) thin ones that keep you going for slice after slice. And that was the first time Wife didn’t pushed her share to me, which was something she normally did in a bid to reduce her carbo intake.


Its tiramisu (£3.95) collapsed into a heap when it was served to us. While it wasn't the most presentable, it did make measure up as a sinful indulgence. Those who adore their alcohol will love Saponara's tiramisu.


We had been there twice since then, slowly going through the entire pizza list. Vincenzo asked during our last visit,”So what can I get you today?”. “Well, your fabulous pizza of course!” I replied and we had a good laugh over that. This is one little Italian with loads of heart.

Saponara on Urbanspoon

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