Restaurant Review: Donna Margarita, Clapham in London
It is said that the new definition of ‘luxury’ is the authentic experience. Half way up Lavender Hill in Battersea, Donna Margarita is just that and doesn’t offer itself up as more so than an authentic Italian family restaurant. Just this evening I met a local though a mutual friend who raved about this restaurant, telling me she loves it as it’s the only Italian in the area that actual Italians visit; I see why.
Donna Margarita is home cooked Italian food with a kick of comforting hospitality. An absolute Italian is not without its menu, and Donna Margarita features all the home grown classics that more often than not go amiss within over commercialized high street Italian restaurants we are so accustomed to. Starters include beef meatballs in tomato and parmesan sauce or stewed borlotti beans with Neapolitan sausage, shallots, chilli and crostini. We began with classic bruschetta topped with sweet cherry tomatoes, basil and olive oil and were delighted with a favourite of Parmigiano e mulignan (baked aubergines in tomato, served with mozzarella and parmesan); something I am also in the process of perfecting in the kitchen. This served with potato croquettes with parmesan, parsley and ‘L`arancin’ or rather its non-fanciful term – fried rice balls filled with smoked cheese, tomato sauce.
Mains courses feature everything you would expect from an Italian but with more. Dishes worth a nose are homemade gnocchi baked with buffalo mozzarella, smoked provola cheese, parmesan and tomato sauce and homemade paccheri pasta with slow cooked beef in mixed onion marmalade, this is served al dente and ultimately different from the conventional tomato sauces we English are so used to. Meat or A ‘carne options are chicken escalope Milanese served with mixed salad and hand cut chips (the Italian’s sophisticated interpretation of chicken nuggets) and slow cooked belly of pork with fennel seeds, rosemary and thyme stuffing served with wilted spinach and aubergines caviar. A true classic, we shared their margarita pizza which shines in simplicity.
Donna Margarita fundamentally describe themselves as a wood-fired pizzeria using centuries-old Neapolitan cucina techniques from southern Italy. Mirroring the Italian hearty appetite this technique embraces this method and is for real European food lovers. A dedication to southern Italy’s spirit of passion, warmth and loyalty — sheer charm and enjoyment of life they understand that a really good restaurant pizzeria that import the majority of their ingredients from southern Italy is a rarity.
A click onto their website and it’s easy to see who’s already a fan. ‘One of the best things I’ve eaten in ages’ say Metro, ‘not just any ordinary pizza’ say the Guardian and described as ‘well known locally for quality pizza and friendly Family vibe’ say Time Out. It’s even Johnny Vaughen’s favourite – he must too be a local.
With on-going birthday celebrations with candle lit cakes that were paraded though the restaurant throughout the evening; Donna Margarita is unpretentious and instead offers itself as the neighbourhood’s friendly local. A simple setting with straightforward seating, exposed brick work and a bar at the rear, Donna Margarita does not compete with the high end glamour that London has so much on offer. This is in fact irrelevant to them. More so, this is a real restaurant and goes back to true hospitality and a free-spirited attitude. Love it or over look it, Donna Margarita is the reliable restaurant next door and its locals remain fond fans.
Address: 183 Lavender Hill, Clapham, London SW11 5TE, 020 7228 2660 / donna-margherita.com