The relaxed ambiance at Carluccio's is perfect for families – and the food's not bad either
ORDINARILY I DON’T make a habit of earwigging other people’s conversations, but I was interested to hear the response to the two young guys asking the waitress whether all Carluccio’s were this child-friendly. True, you often have to navigate your way through the Bugaboos to get into the Islington branch of this popular Italian eaterie, and there’s a good reason why they sell babycinos and biscotti for the toddler set, but I was rather curious about their motivation. Was the child-friendliness a bonus? Or were they keen to know whether their fantasy football chit-chat would be interrupted by toddlers at every Carluccio’s they visited? Her answer was a resounding “yes”. I waited for the boys’ response. “Great,” said one of them. “My sister is visiting with her kids at the weekend and this place will be perfect.”
Thinking about it now, I’m not sure why I ever doubted it. The thing about Carluccio’s is not so much that it is child-friendly. It’s Italian. Real, authentic Italian, so really it goes without saying that children are welcome.
However, what’s more important for food lovers is that the food is delicious – made from the best quality fresh ingredients, simple but full of flavour. While Grace and Joe tucked into a freshly baked focaccia, dipping it into olive oil and balsamic vinegar, I enjoyed the Calamari Fritti – deep-fried squid with a generous squirt of lemon juice. For mains, the chef was happy to cater for the children’s specific tastes: Grace went for penne with delicious home-made pesto, while Joe wanted penne with tomato and basil sauce. For me, it was the Milanese di Pollo – I guess it's my Carluccio's equivalent of a chicken tikka. I always ponder the other appetising choices, but invariably fall back on my favourite, in this case, a flattened breaded chicken breast with a green salad.
We always try to save room for a little dessert because we know how good they are. In this instance, it was a mix of chocolate and vanilla Gelati for Joe (he loves the teddy-bear wafer!), a scoop of Sorbet for Grace and Raspberry Cheesecake and a Caffè Macchiato for me. Oh, and a few take-home goodies from the irresistible selection in the deli for Italian dining at home.
Carluccio’s, 305–307 Upper St N1 2TU. Tel: 020 7359 8167. Branches in 45 locations nationwide Tube: Angel, Highbury & Islington