Su Sazzagoni is tucked away in one of London’s numerous non-areas, those no-man’s-lands that make a half-hearted attempt to cluster themselves into some semblance of a destination but remain merely a few restaurants and pubs next to a Londis in the middle of endless housing. This particular outpost is on the stretch of Lauriston Road west of Victoria Park, a nice spot to end up after a day spotting Eastenders stars by the lake but a place so divorced from the TFL it will give you palpitations after dark. It’s all exposed brick and varnished wood, comfortable enough and full of pleasantly normal E3 residents and little Sardinian knick-knacks that remind you what kind of food you’re eating. The poster of blacked-up children in cowls dragging each other along by ropes is a particularly provincial piece of art.
The staff at Su Sazzagoni are attentive. And by attentive I mean really attentive. Like, social carer round-the-clock attentive. Drug-addled desperado checking their remaining stash attentive. David Cameron poll strategist attentive. Neurotic mother of an only child whose only child in turning teenage and starting to lock their bedroom door attentive. You get the idea.
What that means is my invalid friend was brought a selection of things to elevate her injured foot, from Peroni boxes to cushions to extra chairs and made to feel a star rather than a burden. It also meant almost non-stop harassment and fussing from a gang of waiters constantly hovering like Chinook helicopters that cleared plates mid-mastication and asked three times each if we wanted dessert. When they ran out of things to ask us about they lined up by the kitchen to watch. It was disconcerting.
Food demonstrated both the virtues and pitfalls of Italian cuisine. While a mixed starter was a classic example of simple ingredients done well (milky mozzarella with crunchy fresh pesto, caramelised onions and bulbous tomatoes), a plate of spinach and ricotta ravioli was inevitably sparse. What it is about that particular pasta that makes chefs so precious, believing they more than eight pieces a head will send their business spiralling into financial ruin? While penne (which incidentally looked pretty dry here) flowed from the kitchen non-stop and plates suffocated in tangles of spaghetti and linguine, the fools that ordered ravioli had to chase it round the plate to convince themselves they hadn’t been conned. Pizzas were too hot to eat at first – a nice surprise – and fully loaded, which couldn’t be said of the focaccia, while potato and cheese dumplings oozed lazily upon puncture and were garnished in dried and sliced parmesan. House red was eminently more drinkable than many label wines, but you’d expect that of any house proud Italian. All in all, a decent neighbourhood ristorante in a decent non-neighbourhood.