An Original Italian in Goodge Street – Spaghetti House:
While I’m not quite old enough to have been around when Spaghetti House in Goodge Street first opened in 1955, to my generation foods like pizza and spaghetti (the long sort rather than the stuff that came in cans from Heinz) were exotic and in much the same league as nduja or burrata today. Although there were a few pizzerias around, there was nothing in West Norfolk until I was in my late teens and so, a family trip to London for a day of shopping (which happened twice a year) was often rounded off with a visit to Spaghetti House. As it happens, my father who had aspirations to be Keith Floyd or the Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr, did make ‘proper’ spaghetti bolognese at home. We topped the dish with parmesan that smelt like old boots, from a little cardboard tub and then ground a lot of black pepper on top.
Visiting Goodge Street Spaghetti House there’s a real sense of deja vue for me. It does feel very much like the Italian Bistros that we were treated to when I was a kid. The same dark wood tables and Italian rustic styling, the same tiling on the floor and the smiling waiters in black and white. The lighting has been updated and the menu is a lot longer than anything I remember from my childhood. The thing is, I remember it being VERY good and I really don’t have a problem that it hasn’t changed too much.
Of course, for me there are things that have changed. I would never have been encouraged to start a meal with a glass of prosecco. Now, when it’s just £4.95 for a glas of DOC ca del Console Treviso, why ever would I NOT do so. I wouldn’t have ordered olives either. In the 60s and 70s you would generally have been offered a tired, wrinkled selection of stoned black olives. My parents didn’t like them. I didn’t get to eat them until I left home and developed an obsession for kalamata olives (from Greece) and for the provider of the olives who just happened to have family living there. Now the olives at Spaghetti House are those large green olives, nocellara del belice, from Sicily.
With the excuse of being there to review the food, we ordered three dishes to start.
Schiacciata is a pizza bread topped with tomato, oregano and anchovies. Generously portioned, it’s the same size as a pizza main, but intended to be shared by the table. The topping is light and piquant with the anchovies adding a good level of saltiness.
Calamari fritti is served with aioli. A nicely crisp coating on the calamari hides tender fish. The aioli is perhaps a little too greasy for me and not as pungent as I’d make at home. But then I’m a garlic freak.
Caponata comes with toasted artisanal bread which seems just a little too robust for the sweet sour aubergine and tomato mixture. But I’m happy enough to just spoon the caponata onto my plate and eat it without bread, probably not a bad thing for my waistline at all.
I attempt to try and order a healthy main course. But all that goes out of the window very quickly when I decide that my Branzino (whole oven roasted sea-bass) really does need the Patatine fritte (chips) rather than the healthy salad I’m offered as an alternative. When it arrives I have no regrets at all as the crispy skinned fish, xx with lemons and herbs is delicious, flaky and moist. Perfect with chips. Although maybe I could have had a few less…
My companion meanwhile orders Panciotti in guazzetto which the menu describes as fresh pasta parcels filled with scallops, crab & prawns, Sicilian fennel, seeds, white wine & a hint of chilli. A million miles from Spag Bol, this is a refined pasta dish that he raves about, with plump pasta and generous fillings. But the old favourites are still on the menu, Bolognese, Carbonara and more – available as sharing plates as well as generous individual portions. A great idea for a family meal, for £18.95 the spaghetti sharing bowls are meant to be for two adults, but with a salad and some bread would easily feed a couple of kids too.
Now, having indulged myself with both starter and main course I REALLY did plan to skip dessert or perhaps just have a little sorbet.
Before we could blink though, a rather grand looking platter of some of the house desserts appeared. And, I was brought up to believe it rude to leave food on your plate when dining out.
We enjoyed a bottle of wine with our meal. House wine is available by the litre at £21 or half litre for £11, while bottles start at £18.50.
What can I say? An original, still serving the kind of food that would have been on the menu when it opened…but with so much more on offer. Something of a steal, if you don’t mind admitting that eating in this kind of traditional group of restaurants isn’t always bad. There are twelve Spaghetti House restaurants in central London. I suspect they are all pretty similar and offer the same good value standards with interesting alternatives.
Spaghetti House Goodge Street
Address: 15 Goodge Street W1T 2PQ
Telephone: 020 7636 6582
Nearest Tube: Goodge Street