Mele E Pere
The Mele E Pere mascot is a bowl of grated parmesan. It will sit at the centre of your table as tender, sweet ragus and satellite-sized pizzas join the show with a rotating line-up of homemade-vermouth cocktails. And around you at this buzzing Soho trattoria, will be couples who are hot for each other and hot for ‘nduja, long tables of colleagues unbuttoning their collars in anticipation of rich lobster bigoli, and best friends deciding a bottle of crisp primitivo is absolutely in order. That bowl of grated parmesan is the heart and soul of this family-run restaurant where the portions are as big as the diners’ smiles, and another heaped spoonful is not only available, it’s encouraged.
Whether you’re upstairs at the narrow vermouth bar or down in the sprawling maroon basement dining room, the mood is permanently set to old-school Soho. Servers dash between tables dishing out winks while they tell you you’ve just pronounced 'calabrese' wrong and serving bowls of beautifully bitter tiramisu alongside a ‘lucky you’ grin. The drinks flow, vintage black and white portraits watch you from the walls, and loud conversations are only interrupted by the arrival of gravity-defying piles of salty zucchini fritti.
As the majestic chalky mountain of complimentary cheese suggests, portions fall into the ‘you better be hungry’ category. Perfectly al dente pasta and 48-hour fermented pizza should be enjoyed in tandem with bites of a deep-fried olive. Come hungry, and just as importantly, come thirsty. Mele E Pere is home to London’s largest assortment of vermouths. The leather-bound list is more of a novella, with reams detailing vermouths from around the globe: red, white, spiced, rare, reliable, and even a homemade batch with a sweet strawberry swagger. Bring a negroni fan here on a date and they’ll marry you or marry the bartender. Either way a great story is guaranteed.
Outside of romantic aperitivo moments, this is a restaurant that goes from family meal to fun with friends in the blink of an eye. Mele E Pere can be dressed up for group birthday parties fuelled by rounds of martinis or dressed down for a hearty carbonara when you’re just trying to escape the rain. There are gluten-free options, vegan options, and for £50 you can be double-parked with carbohydrates and one of London’s most sensational negronis. Go on, have another spoonful of parmesan. Why not?
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Repeat after us. I would like a classic negroni with the Mele E Pere homemade red vermouth, pretty please. Or per favore if you’re feeling brave. Made with chamomile, lavender, and strawberry, the vermouth is a touch sweet and smells like our favourite pillow spray. A boozy revelation.
Our cardiologists say no, but our hearts say yes. Deep-fried olives with a gorgeously spicy surprise thanks to the ‘nduja calabrese.
The kind of naughty crunch extravaganza that should be studied by behavioural psychologists to find out why we are physically unable to stop our hand reaching back for more. Technically one of your five a day, but really a salty fried snack that pops off when combined with a sweet negroni.
Tagliatelle With Beef Ragu
Romeo and Juliet. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. This beef ragu and a bowl of grated parmesan. A union that is quite clearly written in the carbohydrate stars, the tagliatelle to ragu ratio leans in favour of that slow-cooked almost sweet beef, so it’s an exceptional excuse to load up on more parmesan once you’re out of pasta.
Accessing the juiciest part of that lobster meat will require patience and an archaeological dig with your fork, but it is worth it. The bigoli is thick, the lobster bisque has the perfect dose of chilli zing, and once you’ve mastered the art of loading pasta, lobster meat, and a datterini tomato on your fork, you’re going to be very happy.
The little glistening pools of oil inside the spicy salame makes us feel things it’s probably not OK to feel when looking at a pizza. A huge medley of mozzarella, ‘nduja, San Marzano tomatoes, and a jaw-rolling chewy crust.
Nonna Mantovani’s Tiramisu
Props to Nonna for making us say ‘phwoar’ so loudly that a server stopped by to check we were OK. A tower of mascarpone with enough coffee to keep us up past our bedtime, combined with the presence of sweet sponge fingers is true dessert luxury.