Everybody knows that Italian food is synonymous with feelings of contentment and love. Delicious flavours such as garlic and basil are an aromatic joy to savour, and the filling meals consisting of fresh smooth pasta and fluffy bread certainly should not leave anybody hungry. When I think of Italian food, the words of the British writer George Miller come to mind: "The trouble with eating Italian food is that 5 or 6 days later you're hungry again."
The Italians have many proverbs relating to food and love, all highlighting the crucial importance of taking time, as a family, to eat together, and to eat well, with the kitchen considered the pulsating heart of any home. Good food is thought to ease life's problems, 'Mangia che ti passa' (Eat and it will be over, you'll feel better) and is the central component to a happy social life, 'hi mangia sulo s'affoga' (He who eats alone suffocates).
When Italians are engaged in the act of eating, they focus solely on the food and each other. Something we could all learn to do more of in this busy modern world, where we work conflicting hours to our spouses, family members and house mates, grabbing what food we can, often eating at different times. To eat the Italian way is to be mindful of the nurturing act of eating well, and we can gain so much from the soul-warming that accompanies sharing a meal with others.
For my husband and I, the last three months have been somewhat stressful. I have just entered my second trimester of pregnancy and, thankfully, I am feeling better from the nausea. Having spent time feeling pretty grim, I am keen to explore (while I'm not too big to get about) and we both value this precious time of just being a couple, before we become a family. Therefore, an Italian meal in a nice part of town sounded like the perfect date-night.
Italian restaurants in southwest London are two-a-penny, and many of them are family run, fantastic establishments that offer diners a chance to restock and refuel, the Italian way. However, one in particular, Tinello on Chelsea's Pimlico Road, is a true gem!
Co-owned by brothers Massimiliano and Frederico Sali (who both once worked at Locanda Locatelli), and just a stroll away from Sloane Square, Tinello draws on its Tuscan influences in a recognisable, yet uncliched, way.
From the moment we stepped inside, the dark and sophisticated décor lulled us in to a relaxed state. The effortlessly cool, exposed brickwork and copper lamps added a modern, robust air, and the beautifully lit and expensive looking bar at the end of the room could easily have been mistaken for a trendy joint in NYC's meatpacking district.
A warm Italian welcome and attentive waiting staff ensured that selecting from the reasonably priced menu was a delight to the senses, and the aromas of Italy that danced out of the kitchen made for a pleasurable, mouth-watering wait for our food to arrive.
On a Saturday night, the clientele was a charming cocktail of hip twenty-somethings out celebrating; affluent older couples wining and dining; and A-list movie stars and film directors enjoying a peaceful meal away from the glare of the spotlight - all of which added to Tinello's allure - it felt special because nothing seemed out of place.
The main event, the food, was fantastic. We devoured a mixture of Tuscan small plates and fresh pasta garnished with white truffle to start. We followed this with pan-fried pork fillet and braised veal, both incredibly flavoursome. My husband says the wine pairings were spot on, too. Then, to finish, the dolci we selected was a cherry pannacotta, and a chocolate and pistachio tart, accompanied by coffee and mint tea to top it off.
To say we felt content would be an understatement. As I mentioned earlier, I am pregnant, so, I could not sample the wines, but the staff were thorough in ensuring that my food choices suited my dietary needs. We could have stayed at Tinello for much, much longer, and, had I not been pregnant, we would have easily sat in the comfortable surroundings and enjoyed a few more drinks, happily talking about our dreams for our impending future as parents. It is just one of those restaurants. We did not want to leave.
When Tinello first opened in 2010, they received some fantastic reviews, one predicting the restaurant's longevity. I must say, having visited many wonderful restaurants in London, Tinello is up there with the best of them, and I can see why it is still as popular as ever.
Tinello really is a great restaurant, and we will certainly be making use of its family friendly ethos when our little one comes along. After all, a tinello is the room next door to the kitchen where family and friends are entertained.
Therefore, with this in mind, I urge you to visit Tinello the next time you are looking for a relaxed and affordable, yet super-stylish, restaurant to enjoy some precious time spent with loved ones.
A meal for two with wine costs about £100.
Tinello, 87 Pimlico Road. Tel: 020 7730 3663. Tube: Sloane Square