Itri had always been a place that we’d wanted to visit, and we were very sad to see it close, last year, without us having made the time to try it. From its ashes has arisen Pepe Nero, a family style Italian that’s ploughing much the same furrow.
The interior is very simple, but has a rustic charm that’s very well judged.
The menu has some of the characteristics of the gigantically expansive selections that have become very familiar in Italian places, but has a good structure to it, separating dishes in to, as it were, bite-sized chunks, making it an easy read. It exudes a sense that someone has carefully thought about how best to bring a balance to things.
I kept things pretty to a familiar pattern, with melanzane parmiggiana (parmegiana/parmigiana has almost as many spellings as baclava/baklava/baklawa) to start, then chose a pizza to follow. I was tickled to see one called the Scozzese, featuring a topping of haggis and tatties, so couldn’t resist giving it a go.
I was very pleased with the melanzane starter. Served volcanically hot, as is the prevailing method, it quickly cooled to a non-volatile temperature, not least as it had a much stronger aubergine to sauce ratio (in favour of the aubergine) than is often the case. It was a very good rendition of what is a favourite dish of mine.
The pizza to follow was a treat for the senses. It had an overpoweringly saliva-inducing aroma. The wonderfully peppery haggis, augmented by a few twists of freshly ground black pepper from a typically large mill, had me salivating like McPavlov’s Dug!
It tasted bloody impressive, too. The base was really nicely judged, with elements of both softness and crispness, so likely to offer notes of comfort to those in both schools of base thought.
The element that elevated things further was the potatoes, which were topped with rosemary and crisped at the corners, adding a really satisfying roastedness to proceedings.
So overall, I was impressed by Pepe Nero. They served me two very good courses, with the haggis and tattie pizza likely to live long in the memory. I look forward to my next visit, where I will do well to convince myself to deviate from what I ate, tonight. I’d recommend this place, very highly.
Blythe scores Pepe Nero
4.5/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for setting
3.5/5 for service
giving an overall 15/20
Today’s quester was: Blythe
I ate: melanzane parmiggiana; pizza scozzese
I drank: chianti, espresso
I wore: navy three piece
Total bill: £20.10