What: A classic, old-school Italian restaurant on Kensington High Street that takes its inspiration from the neighbourhood of Enoteche and Osterie in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.
Who: Pino is owned by restaurateur James Chiavarini and his wife Marianna. The restaurant is named after James' father, who opened nearby restaurant Il Portico in 1967. Billed as 'one of London’s oldest family-run restaurants', Il Portico is part of the original wave of Italian restaurants that opened in the capital during the 1960s. Over the course of the six decades, four generations of the Chiavarini family have worked at Il Portico, and Pino will further cement the family's restaurant legacy. "Pino is really a building on of everything our family has achieved at Il Portico – the solid, reliable, traditional Italian – by creating a fun, cheeky little sister restaurant," says James.
The food: Head chef Simone Biraghi has created a menu of tapas-style sharing dishes that features plenty old-school Italian classics and a wealth of more curious additions. Signature small plates include Campari-cured salmon with caperberries and beetroot (£11); native Colchester oysters with house apple balsamic and tropea onion vinegar (£10.50); and fried zucchini flowers stuffed with citrus and ricotta (£11). There's also a concise selection of larger, main dishes including squid ink ravioli filled with aubergine and monkfish, and served with a shellfish bisque, basil and pine nuts (£17); and tomahawk rib rye on the bone with peppercorn salsa, portobello mushroom, chargrilled tomato and mix salad (£65 for two). Additionally there's a range of the pizza and foccacia topped with meats including salumi, prosciutti and culatelli imported exclusively from a local small-batch producer dating back to 1780, and prepared in the kitchen's wood-fired oven.
The drink: An extensive list of rare vermouths and unique Italian gins form the foundation of a strong cocktail list that reflects the Dolce Vita of 1950s Italy, with a few twists using the 25-year-old balsamic vinegar made by the Chiavarini family (see below). Options include the Great Gatsby with Stolichnaya, Lillet Blanc and grapefruit juice (£10.50); the Cosmogroni with Tanqueray, Campari, Martini Rubino and cranberry juice (£11); and the Manhattan Modenese with Sazerac Rye, Martini Riserva and balsamic bitters (£11). The 17-strong wine list is sourced primarily from Italy and France, with all bins available by both the glass and bottle.
The vibe: The whole restaurant has a cosy, serenely calm atmosphere that's emphasised through navy blue and tan hues. The 60-cover site features a beautiful marble bar that holds five, alongside comfy banquette seating. An outside terrace holds space for a further 52 covers.
And another thing: The Chiavarini's ethos is heavily influenced by its origins from the heart of the Italian food valley between Bologna, Parma and Modena, famous for its balsamic vinegars. As such, Pino will be 'the first and only producer of traditional organic Modena balsamic in the UK'. The vinegar will be barrel aged in an up-lit centrepiece of the restaurant for up to 25 years, and will feature across both the food and cocktail menu (see 'The drink').
267 Kensington High St, London W8 6NA