I defy anyone to walk past Malletti in Soho and not immediately start inhaling madly. The smell coming out of their open door is always incredible: mozzarella, basil, garlic, tomatoes; all wafting into Noel Street and the various surrounding roads.
This is proper Italian food: huge rectangular slabs of pizza, deep trays of fresh egg penne and tortellini, sandwiches made with thick slices of warm focaccia. A snippet of Rome not two minutes out of Oxford Street.
I go past it every day as I head to work, and am tortured by the odour of my favourite savoury foods. Usually, I am doomed to walk on by: I don’t have the time to visit before my shift begins, and (horror of horrors) the place doesn’t open at evenings or weekends.
From time to time, however, I get my chance. Like Friday, for instance, when I wangled myself a morning shift (not just so I could visit Malletti, but there you go…).
My tummy had been rumbling since ten o’clock, and the only thing that got me through was the promise of what was to come. At one point, I’m pretty sure my stomach began digesting itself. But in the end it was definitely worth the wait.
Now, this being the Pud-Hog Blog, I won’t comment too much on the savouries (so in a word, then: YUM).
Instead, we’ll move right on to the sweets.
I should say from the outset, if you’re looking for cabinets packed full of Italian cakes, you won’t find them at Malletti. The couple of times I’ve managed to pay a visit, they’ve only had – at most – a couple of post-pizza options.
No, sir! Like all the best Italian cooks, the folks at Malletti know how to keep things simple – and they do it extremely well.
Take this mini Cannolo – a wee tube of pastry, about an inch long, filled with chocolate hazelnut spread.
As I mentioned in my post on Terroni’s, I’ve had plenty of these that didn’t quite cut the mustard (stale pastry, musty filling, too sweet, etc, etc). But this specimen was just right: the pastry was thick and crisp (LOVE that crunch), with a filling that was dreamily soft and sweet. It was gone in a couple of bites – a mere aperitif.
The main event – the Bread and Butter Pudding – was even nicer.
More of a Bread Pudding in the English sense (no obvious slices of toasted bread like the one ol’ Granny Hog used to make), the slice we had was soft, moist and light – and slipped down oh so easily.
Ah me. It was lovely, with all the hallmarks of an excellent lunchtime pud: rich – but not too decadent; juicy sultanas; the occasional crunchy edge; smooth and gooey custard-like patches, and – best of all – the occasional pool of melted, sugary butter, spreading across the top like liquid caramel.
Cut from a block the size of a coffee table (see picture one), my only disappointment was not getting to spend the afternoon with the rest, shovelling it up with the blue-handled wallpaper scraper.
For that, I would happily take a day off.
Mind you, I might need recovery time…
Make it two days then.