Tel: +44 (0)20 7287 2057
Address: 41 Beak Street, Soho W1F 9SB
Cuisine Type: Italian
nearest tube station Piccadilly Circus (PICCADILLY, BAKERLOO)

There’s something about eating with one’s hands that appeals to the more primitive instincts, almost as if physical contact allows you to commune with the food….or maybe that’s just me. At any rate, the fact that I was encouraged to dispense with knife and fork at Apertivo endeared me to this friendly and unassuming restaurant, situated just off Regent Street, almost immediately.

The décor is simple – dim lighting and deep purple walls made it feel as if we had stepped out of the bustle of Piccadilly and into a haven of calm. The sofas at the front of the restaurant are a nice touch, allowing those waiting for friends to relax with a drink.

On ascertaining that this was our first visit to Apertivo, our waitress explained how it works. Applying a tapas concept to Italian food, diners choose on average two items per person from a menu that includes meat, fish, vegetables and salad dishes, and share the food between them. My date and I had difficulty agreeing upon four dishes – because everything sounded gorgeous, rather than through lack of choice. We got off to a good start, with batons of creamy polenta, two topped with gorgonzola and two wrapped in crispy pancetta (£4.25). This was followed by Carasatu (£4.25), comprising sheets of “carta di musica” – literally translated as music sheets, these were actually soft pancakes – topped with grilled aubergine, tomato and mozzarella. We were recommended to roll up the pancakes by hand, and I’m sure they tasted all the better for it. Vegetarian Sgabi (£5.75) were crispy pastry shells filled with a salsa of tomato, onion, garlic and olive oil. Wonderfully messy to eat, they were bursting with intense flavours, so much so that we could taste the garlic hours afterwards. As you may have guessed, this is probably not the place for a first date…..

The only disappointment was a salad of chicory, celery, fennel, walnut and pecorino (£3.75). Whilst the leaves were crisp and fresh, served without any dressing they tasted bland in comparison to the tastebud-tingling dishes above.

Desserts brought our meal to a satisfying conclusion. From the menu that featured predictable classics such as ice cream and panacotta, we chose Tiramisu (£3.95) that was creamy and boozy, as it should be, but the real star was a slice of Sicilian cake (£3.50), made with ricotta, orange, lemon and chocolate. According to the waitress, this is a traditional speciality prepared in-house by the native Italian chef.

To drink, there is a good range of reasonably priced wines, both by the glass and the bottle. All in all, a pleasant dining experience that won’t leave you out of pocket.