Luca Meola is fresh out of college, with a burning passion for running his own trattoria. Luckily his dad is well versed in the restaurant game and the two of them have set about turning this once difficult site into Luca’s first venture.
The spot was formerly occupied by Pasta Habit, providing good value if uninspiring hot lunches to the workers from Highgate Studios; and dinners to a loyal local family contingent. That was until the place was busted for an unexpected sideline in a sizable drugs ring a couple of years back.
Rossella brings back the friendly attitude and the value – without the contraband. On our Saturday early evening visit, every table was occupied. There were a lot of kids. It was fun, although the poor middle-aged couple trying to hear each other speak at the neighbouring table looked shaken by the noise.
Luca is very evidently a fantastic people person, attending to each of the tables in turn, and on first name terms with many of the diners, even though the restaurant is still a relatively new arrival. The positive attitude shines through. It’s all very Italian, in the big family sense.
The food, though plentiful, is fairly basic. As we’ve said before in our Top 7 Pizzas feature, we don’t understand why, for instance, the toppings remain so conservative, particularly when up against the glamorous Pizza East next door.
Starters of avocado and prawn, plus a decent-sized bruschetta, reminded of average holiday food rather than a serious new addition to the NW5 food scene. Frozen prawns are just a little too retro. Pasta has a ‘home cooked’ feel, but only in the sense that we could have knocked it up easily at home ourselves. This of course misses the point though. Sometimes, particularly with kids, it’s nice to come and be thoroughly waited on, and this is where Rosella excels.
Grilled salmon came slathered in an unannounced rich sauce, but there was no hesitation in whisking the plate away and cooking a new, naked one. Similarly the pizza-making became an interactive activity for our kids, with the chefs obviously used to playing along. It was such a hit that we started toying with the idea of a pizza-making party as we polished off our pitcher of wine, momentarily undisturbed.
We’d like the food to be a little more complex if we’re honest, but if that affected either the keen prices or the lovely friendly vibe, as it probably would, then there could be trouble. Especially from the loyal band of Rossella devotees who have clamoured for us to review the joint.
Words & Pics: Tom Kihl