Age: Four months. Or thereabouts.
Where exactly is it? Robert Street in NW1, which may or may not ring a bell. It’s the thoroughfare, mostly lined with chippies and newsagents, that connects the tip of Drummond Street with Albany Street.
OK. So what goes on there? This Italian café bakery is the bambino of Italian-born friends Michele and Matteo, and specialises in typical Sicilian fare. It’s a very simple space with just three eat-in tables, plastic tablecloths, brick wallpaper, a pot plant or two and framed pics of Palermo on one side. As convincingly Italian as the soundtrack, on our visit the only other customers were all chatting away in the mother tongue.
What should I order? Coffee and pastries aside, the speciality, as you’d imagine from their name, is carb-heavy fare, including several types of arancini. Pick yours from the glass counter: shaped as either big golden spheres or pyramids, they’re crisp on the outside, with steaming innards of pleasingly chewy rice and fragrant saffron. On our visit the options included creamy ham and cheese, spinach and mozzarella, or aubergine and tomato. But we had to try the original accarne, filled with deeply savoury Sicilian ragu made from minced beef and pork, with tomato and peas adding textural contrast. An utterly delicious lunchtime treat.
What else is there? We were keen to sample the silken caponata, comprising slow-cooked chunks of smooth aubergine with soft celery, tomatoes and capers for a saline hit; while a side of fluffy couscous was studded with slithers of roasted vegetables and mint. There’s also lasagne, calzone, gnocchi, and temptingly filled brioche (carnivores shouldn’t miss the wurstel sausage), as well as pizzette and daily specials.
I have a sweet tooth. Well then, you’ll lap up the aforementioned pastries. Expect on-trend charcoal croissants, fruit tarts, gooey brownies, profiteroles and rum babas.
An essential dessert? The Sicilian classic (and forgivably tiny) cannolo – or cannolicchio as it’s strictly called – is a slim and modest-length pastry cigar filled with melting ricotta and chocolate chips. Perfect with a smooth, strong espresso; we were thankful of the twenty-minute walk back to the office afterwards.
What to drink? Caffeine options aside, there are the usual soft drinks in a cabinet, plus an ice-cold vat of tap water infused with lemon and lime.
What’s the service like? Friendly and eager. The duo really want customers to enjoy their new café.
Do say: ‘This is the best Sicilian café in NW1.’
Don’t say: ‘Where’s Arancini Brothers?’
Main photo: Stephen Emms