When I interviewed Francesco Mazzei last summer, he tipped me off about a little-known place he sometimes likes to visit with his wife and daughter. Tucked away in a quiet side street behind the Sainsbury’s in Angel, Tenore is an authentic Sardinian restaurant, with a great little line in wood fired pizzas. Chef Roberto Tonzanu, who worked with Gennaro Contaldo at Passione for many years, has run this little gem in a refurbished Barnsbury pub for the past year.
The decor is all overblown black and white prints, burgundy banquettes, priapic pepper grinders and single roses on the table. It welcomes you in, in an unpretentious trattoria kind of manner. Images of the Sardinian flag greet the eye at every turn, and it’s an image I’m eerily fascinated by. It’s basically a St Georges flag with the severed head of a Moor in every quarter. This represents the execution of Moorish kings after the reconquest of the island in the 11th century and was updated 10 years ago. Now the blindfolds on their heads have been replaced with hip hop style bandanas – I have no idea what this represents but it makes me feel ever so slightly uncomfortable.
The other diners were all as you might expect in this part of town. My friend Matthew (who if you close your eyes sounds exactly like Jack Dee) pointed out that every male diner in the room was sporting an identikit uniform of collared white shirts under navy sweater and all the women were high pitched and well spoken. Despite the fact that we bucked this trend somewhat (I looked poor and scruffy and he was all suited and booted) the staff were warm and welcoming.
We were given a basket of pane carasau, the national bread of Sardinia, to accompany our glasses of Bovale. Known in Italian as “carta di musica” this crisp, semolina rich flatbread is the only kind I have ever wanted to eat endless unadorned quantities of. The stuff here was perfect, light and salty with a gentle rosemary perfume. We decided to share a main and a pizza and after much agonising went for a homemade venison agnolini in a butter and sage sauce. This was a great choice and manifested itself in podgy pouches of silken carbs heaving with deer as moist and tender as Bambi’s peepers, all bathed in a plate-lappingly good sauce. That sauce had me rendered into a sort of ambrosial stupor, and I can still taste its deep buttery nectar enriched with the velvet calm of sage. At one point I actually caught myself dipping hunks of pizza crust into it, and inwardly groaning to myself with pleasure while nodding and pretending to listen to Matthew wittering on about some book he’s reading about the ascent of money (Niall Ferguson’s latest, apparently).
The pizza was very good indeed, a nice skinny base, delicious crust and a disciplined hand with the toppings. The chilli and Sardinian sausage were of fantastic quality. I clocked the woman on the table next to us tucking into some gorgeous looking prawns, big, russet beauties covered in a parsley and chilli sauce, and experienced a sudden pinch of decapod envy. We wrapped up with sevadas, a large ravioli of “young fresh cheese”, the crisp sun generously spooned with lavender honey –this harboured all of the lush elements (namely sweet salty and deep fried) although I was slightly unsure about the “goaty” edge to the filling. Our bill came to £43 which we both thought was very reasonable.
The menu also featured national favourites like patata alla bottarge (potato gratin with grey-mullet roe) sa burrida (marinated rock salmon in white wine vinegar with walnut pesto) and with a bit of notice a whole roast suckling pig, if you’re into that sort of thing. I certainly cannot wait to return and wrap my chops around these treasures and of course, some more of that special sauce.
14 Barnsbury Road
Tel: 0207 2786955