photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
Plasters. A decent corkscrew. Matches. These are some of your essentials when it comes to being an adult. Spending money on these things might feel like yet another welcome-to-being-a-grown-up-tax. But the second you accidentally cut your hand open whilst taking on an avocado, or attempt to open a bottle of chablis with your shoe, or incite witchcraft to try and light a candle in a power cut, you realise just how important these things are. They might not be exactly what you want, but they’re what you need.
Radici is a big Italian restaurant in Islington that might not always be exactly what you want, but it’s definitely a restaurant that every grown-up in London needs. Head here for a weekday lunch or for dinner on a Friday night, and you’ll see people using this place in a whole bunch of different ways. As you walk in, you might see a mother and son making their way through a pork ragu fettuccine and a margherita pizza. On the long 14-person table near the open kitchen, a group of colleagues are finishing up their tiramisu and four bottles of wine. On the cream banquette seating at the back, a dressed-up couple in their 60s are working through some courgette flowers and a slab of pork belly, with the zucchini fritti on the table between them like the world’s most crispy and snackable bouquet. This is a restaurant you need in your back pocket.
Even with all of Radici’s big, open space, the circular tables that are perfect for groups, or the fact that the whole restaurant looks like someone picked up the set of Mamma Mia and dropped it off in Islington for safe keeping, this place wouldn’t be so useful if the food was terrible. But it isn’t. We’re only slightly exaggerating when we say that their taglierini - thin stringy pasta that comes in a thick, spicy stew, full of beans and pancetta - is the cure for the common cold. And sadness. And the fact your own mother forgot your birthday last year. Okay, maybe we’re exaggerating a lot, but the taglierini is great and memorable in a way that having a slap-bang carbonara turn up to your table wouldn’t be. Even if some of the things here, like the white sausage pizza, are on the Droopy-talking-about-petrol-prices spectrum of bland, there are enough good Italian classics here to ensure that you have a decent meal.
This place is so comfortable and inoffensive it might slip your mind, but then payday will feel a long way off and - lightbulb moment - Radici’s set menu options will sort you right out. Or maybe your sister will appear in London with the twins and you’ll find yourself getting a bit ‘this is Sparta’ on Upper Street over the lack of high chairs. Solution? Radici. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve had a terrible day and Radici’s panna cotta feels like a pretty good consolation prize for having to be a grown-up, especially when you remember it’s £6.50, which is basically just the price of a decent corkscrew.
Spicy Meatballs, Grana Padano Riserva
This is a starter. If you could see us you’d know that we’re making finger air quotes around the word ‘starter’ because this is a pretty hefty portion. The meatballs are huge and just a bit spicy, and they come with a fluffy mash. We’re into this.
Courgette Flowers, Stuffed Ricotta, Amalfi Lemon
Did someone say ‘summer’? Yes, these courgette flowers did. Or they would, you know, if they could speak. The ricotta is very rich, but the lemon, light yellow sauce, and courgette keep the whole thing tasting fresh.
Tortelli Smoked Burrata, Butter, Sage, Hazelnuts
Like dropping four flame emojis at the end of a compliment, the smoky burrata is the added bonus that takes this dish from being okay to being pretty great. Given all the butter, burrata, and hazelnuts, it’s also surprisingly light.
Pork Ragu Fettuccine
Eating this feels a bit like attempting to read War And Peace. It’s a classic and we want to like it, but it’s just a bit boring. We’ve had much better takes on this dish at other places.
Taglierini, Fagioli, Pancetta
Is it a pasta? Is it a bean stew? Is it a meaty broth? No, it’s all of the above, in one bowl. This could very well be the picture that accompanies the word ‘hearty’ in the dictionary. A must-order.
Tagliolini Cacio E Pepe, Asparagi
We’ve had two cacio e pepe offerings here. The good classic cacio e pepe that comes as part of the three course £19 set menu. Then there’s the a la carte cacio e pepe with asparagi that comes swimming in sauce and is a bit of a dud. Even if you’re kicking it a la carte, request the set menu version.
Pork Belly, Sanguinaccio, Cime Di Rapa
Portion size: epic. This is a huge slab of pork belly covered in a great warming sauce with three accompanying sides.
There’s something deeply addictive about these fried matchstick courgettes. Your hand will just keep going back. And back. And back. And back.
Vanilla Panna Cotta, Strawberry Sauce
A nice, classic panna cotta. Peak wobble.