Discerningly friendly, if there is such a thing. Freshly familiar. The motley crew demographic either encourages or thwarts people-watching, depending on your predilection. Just make sure your date is facing away from the throngs should they be poetically inclined. The entrance hall on the ground floor might suggest something a little different. Mirrors everywhere. Feeling almost a little too sexy, it’s a relief to descend to the oubliette, I mean basement, to find an open wood fire pizza oven and sparkling, open-plan style dining space. Clientele: a father and his young daughters; long-lost friends; first dates; third dates; married couples; a lone sage.
I would have said pizza, judging from the pizza oven and the ‘Pizzeria’ in the restaurant’s title. But seeing the pizza boxes – piled high to echo (in a way) grand Doric columns – made me a little complacent. I’ll do takeaway next time. As this is more of a third, fourth or fifth (or above) date kind of place, go for the seafood and either impress or endear you date with your prawn-peeling or fish filleting skills. Start with the pan-fried king prawns or the warm octopus salad. Be warned, though, these are no ‘sharing’ dishes, so you’ll have to choose. For something a bit sexier (i.e. easier to eat), the Burrata looks fantastic, as does the Carpaccio. You’ll be spoiled by such a huge choice of mains, from exceptional pasta and risotto dishes to an array of meat (veal is on the menu!) and fish, not to mention the hallmark pizzas. A whole Dover Sole will hit the spot, as will a perfectly rare steak. Take your time – even the house wines are exceptional and will see you chatting through the course of the evening without the risk of cocktail-induced obnoxiousness. Having said that, a stool at the bar for just the one, before or after the meal, may not be such a bad idea – the cocktail menu is extensive. If the conversation is still going well by dessert, the crème brulée is an absolute must. At that point you’re obliged to stop talking. This pud deserves as much attention as your date.
It’s a night for conversation. It’s possible your previous dates have been such a whirlwind that you still know very little about your partner. Bocconcino, with its laid back lounge music and cushty seating, is the place to start asking (reasonable) questions. Here are some examples: Do you travel much? Are you into wine? What are you reading at the moment? Questions to avoid: What was your last girl/boyfriend like? Why didn’t it work out? How long did it take you to say you loved them? Further guidelines available on request.
The downsides of this place are pretty much identical to the upsides: family-friendly; unpretentious; unassuming. Don’t go for a first or second date. Other than that, this is a winning arena for true game to be played out. Advice: as seating can feel cosy, a) avoid sitting next to a young family if you can, and b) restrain food envy directed at the table next door. You won’t go unnoticed.
2. It’s getting to know one another time.