Ponti’s Italian Review
Please note, this review was first published on Blue Tomato reviews in 2013
Oxford Street. 6pm.
A place where patience goes out the window in five seconds flat and anger surfaces from even the meekest of souls. Having worked in the area for the last four years, I’m used to the disgruntled commuters, disorientated tourists and meandering shoppers that frequent the pavements of the infamous strip but that doesn’t make it any easier to wade my way through without sporting at least one bruised body part…and in the run up to Christmas, you’ll need to be brave to get past the crowds.
A stone’s throw away from said hustle and bustle lies Ponti’s Italian; a family run business that is now in its fiftieth year. This success may in part be due to the location, but it’s the use of fresh, quality ingredients from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy that makes the restaurant a hit.
Provenance is a key part of the menu, with many dishes displaying the DOP logo – an official mark that certifies the products are from specific regions in Italy and we source genuine speciality products from the region.
We arrived 15 minutes early for our 6.30 booking on a cold Wednesday night to an already reasonably full restaurant so were shown to some seats and offered drinks whilst we waited for our table (one of the comfy booths) to be free.
This gave us time to admire the décor – bright tiles and old photos displayed proudly on the walls showing the artisan suppliers that the family owned restaurant has been using for the last fifty years.
Strings of garlic and dried chillies hang from the ceiling around the inviting open plan kitchen and wood fire pizza oven; where coincidently diners can opt to take part in a ‘pizza school’ and cook their own dinner. The restaurant also boasts a small deli, where you can pick up your biscotti or a festive pannetone.
Our table was soon ready, and Gellert our waiter for the evening showed us to the spacious booth that was ours for the next few hours! The restaurant has a lovely warmth to it and I don’t think this was just the glow from the golden Christmas decorations lining the windows.
Sipping on the velvety smooth and fruity Pinot nero, Quattro valli (bargain at £20.90 per bottle) we awaited our starters of Sapori di Puglia olives (£3.50) – A generous sized portion of gorgeous green olives served on ice with Sardinian flat bread and a tart black olive tapenade which whet the appetite perfectly.
Insalata di mozzarella e zuccqa (£5.80) was next to the table– roasted butternut squash, fresh and creamy buffalo mozzarella and wilted greens garnished with salty, crispy parmesan breadcrumbs; a brilliant vegetarian starter. But what followed on was definitely the dish of the day: Capesante con parma (£8.90) four plump and juicy scallops wrapped in Parma ham served in garlic butter and bought to the table still in the pan they were cooked in, all with lovely warm focaccia sticks to dip into the juices alongside mixed Italian cured meats/ Antipasto carne (£8.30) – salame piacentino, coppa, and parma ham served with cherry tomatoes on the vine, wonderfully strong Parmigiano Reggiano, green olives and wafer thing crispy Sardinian flat bread.
For the mains we shared spinach and ricotta ravioloni (£10.90), an Emilia Romagna speciality I am told. Now, I am one of those people that declare they could never be a vegetarian – no dish can be substantial in the absence of meat/fish…but I take back my words as not only was this pasta dish incredibly filling, it was also utterly delicious. After meat and fish you see, my next true love is cheese and this was filled with rich cheesy goodness, finished off with strong but not overpowering sage flavours.
Our next main is part of the Christmas menu that Ponti’s is currently serving (a choice of 3 courses for only £19.95) – Pollo alla Piastra; Oven roasted garlic and thyme flavoured chicken with roasted new potatoes, superbly sweet honey glazed parsnips and cranberry jelly topped off with a rich gravy. Although well cooked, this was simply a roast dinner that could be eaten anywhere and not something I would choose when visiting an authentic Italian eatery.
Keeping with the Christmas tradition, we were also served a Christmas pudding with Zabaglione ice cream. The ice cream had a great boozy little kick to it; I could easily scoff bowls of that alone and the pudding wasn’t half bad either! I’m not a fan of the traditional rich Christmas pudding, I much prefer a good chocolate yule log but this Italian version consisted of less of the actual ‘pudding’ and more candied fruit, much to my delight.
The other dessert Bomboloni di Ricotta (£5.60) warm Italian doughnuts with acacia honey and vanilla pod ice cream was a little disappointing – the doughnuts were very large and doughy, a little too dense and cake like for my liking.
After a good four hours of feasting and a limoncello shot to cleanse the palate, our evening was sadly over. We received an impeccably unrushed service with amiable staff in pleasant surroundings…and I’ll definitely be back to get another bottle of that red wine!
|Average Meal Price for 2 (incl. wine)||£60|
|Average Price for main course||£11.50|
|Defining Feature||The open kitchen with modern wood fire pizza oven|
|Address||5 – 7 John Princes Street, Oxford Circus, London, W1G 0JN|
|Nearest Tube||Oxford Circus|
|Phone Number||020 3230 3018|