Rossella is about so much more than margheritas
Neighbourhood Italian has such a good range it would be a shame not to let your eye travel further down the menu
24 August, 2018 — By Tom Moggach
Rossella has taken the quality trattoria to a whole new level
GO for the pasta, go for the pizza: of course, when you have a neighbourhood Italian with no pretensions but a mission to produce good, honest, affordable, delicious food you must say these things.
But Rossella, in Highgate Road, which is run by the charming Luca Meola, has so much more to offer than the staples.
You could fuel up on their simple margheritas (with a base flipped to an elastic dough, then crunched up, delightfully thin, in their oven, topped with the slow-cooked tomato sauce, as if they’ve taken lessons from the final scene of Goodfellas).
Or you could go for the al dente penne with their All Arrabiata – seriously piquante, and with another tomato sauce that elevates the concept.
You could stick to these easy options, and you won’t find them done better anywhere else in north London.
But it seems a shame to just go with easy-to-choose dishes they create for beaming regulars who come, order the same thing every time, and waddle off contented no matter how gorgeous they are.
Rossella has such a good range it would be a shame not to let your eye travel further down the menu. One of our guests went for Pollo Sicilana – chicken breast topped off with prosciutto, a mozzarella and tomato sauce with sauteed potatoes and vegetables.
Normally a chatterbox to dine with, a man who likes to spin his meals out till the waiting staff are idly looking at their watches and wondering about night buses home, he hardly said a word, so engrossed he was with each mouthful. He didn’t wolf it down but, for the first time in years of regular meals together, I saw him more interested in the grub on his plate than regaling those around with thoughts and anecdotes.
Then there was the salmon fillet – Salmon al Cartoccio. Baked (though the diner said it would be more apt to call it bathed, as it was treated so gently) in white wine and lemon, and a bit of garlic, it came with a rumbustious salad – not some piffling after-thought, but a big, fat, crispy, solid plate of leaves, tomatoes and the like.
I heard from the table next to us that they swear by the Orata – a fillet of Sea Bream served with dijon potatoes, fennel and a buttery, white wine shell fish sauce. One for our next visit.
Luca, who can be found sometimes front-of-house, sometimes at the bar and sometimes in his chef whites in the kitchen, has grown up in the trade.
His father Luigi has run a restaurant since leaving Naples in the 1960s. Luca spent his formative childhood years waiting tables and soaking up the trade.
When he was 21 , his dad suggested he went for it on his own. He named the place after his nonna (and he has pinched her recipes – a cliché, perhaps, but so good for it) and draws heavily on the classic recipe books of the southern Italian regions where the family come from.
Rossella has won a place in the hearts of locals for it friendliness, and has taken the quality trattoria to a whole new level.
103 Highgate Road