Thursday, 14 July 2011

Dolcetto Islington Chapel Market review - it's the simple dishes that matter


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Address: 18 Chapel Market
London N1 9EZ
Tel: 020 7278 2825
Nearest Tube station: Angel

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: Below £10pp (set lunch)
Service charge: N/A
Taste: ****
Service: ***
Ambience: ***
“It’s good...” There was a hint of surprise in Wife’s voice as she tucked into her spaghetti bolognese. To be fair, we didn’t expect much of our lunch at Dolcetto. It was a sunny afternoon with temperature just over 25C with clear skies overhead, atypical of the English summer. We heard from L that Tai-An, which is a local Vietnamese pan-Asian grocery store at Chapel Market, has taken up the shop space beside it and set up a Vietnamese eatery.

When we reached Tai-An at around 2pm that day, we realized that everything on the menu is pre-prepared and laid out on the counter, much like the ‘economy rice’ back home. As the food was prepared a couple of hours before (they open for lunch at 12pm), it looked rather unappetizing and that was how we ended up at Dolcetto, which is a couple of doors down.

Things didn’t look very promising with Dolcetto either. It was empty for one. Granted that it was well past lunch time but I do get a feeling that Dolcetto caters more for dinner than lunch. There was a lunchtime promotion going on - £7.95 for a pasta or pizza with drinks. The surly waitress (she did warm up considerably later on) quickly informed us that the deal applies to only those “non-seafood” items. A quick glance through the pasta menu revealed only two such dishes – spaghetti bolognese and spaghetti carbonara, unless I have missed something, everything else come with either prawns, squid or fish.

Enough justification on how we ended up with spaghetti bolognese and spaghetti carbonara. Unlike La Forchetta, Dolcetto is upfront about serving all its pasta al dente and offers the option of having your pasta cooked for “a longer time”. Never fans of half cooked pasta, we took that up.

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The pasta were served after us baking under the sun for fifteen minutes. Like I said earlier, the spaghetti turned out much better than expected. The pancetta in Dolcetto’s carbonara was generous in portion and retained its juiciness, nothing like the overcooked ones that I have come across in lesser restaurants. The carbonara sauce was thick, creamy and easily clung onto the spaghetti as I twirl it round my fork. It’s not the healthiest of pasta dishes but it was worth every single calorie.

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Suffice to say that Wife was taken with her spaghetti bolognese as well. A clear indicator was that she actually cleaned up the dish. Being a more discerning eater, she would baulk at the carbo even though she was hungry. I did manage to wrangle a mouthful from her plate. Like its carbonara, Dolcetto’s spaghetti Bolognese come with a generous portion of thick meaty sauce.

Dolcetto, which can easily passed for a high street restaurant, looks a bit out of place along Chapel Market with the likes of Dehli Grill, a couple of diners, which menus are literally carbon copies of each other, a McDonald’s where a fist fight broke out when I was there chomping on my burger, and now Tai-An, which is more an eatery than a restaurant. In other words, Dolcetto is more of a La Porchetta. More notably, it does have its fair share of regulars who pack the place every evening.

Stefano Fraquelli, the owner of Assaggini at Haymarket once imparted his wisdom about running restaurants. “A good restaurant just have to do a couple of dishes well and more importantly they must taste as good every single time.” Well, carbonara and spaghetti bolognese are literally the staple for Italian restaurants and Dolcetto’s more than decent. “Is it your first time here?” the waitress asked as she handed over the bill. Yes, and I’ll be back again.

Dolcetto on Urbanspoon

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