While food is always evolving, the past few years has seen evolution at a pace we’ve never seen before.
If the invention of the Internet allowed us to gain knowledge of far-off cuisines and unearth hidden gems from the past at a click of a button, Instagram has created a completely different cuisine; full of vivid colours, shapes and boundary pushing. Would the rise of vegan food have been as rapid without the world sharing the innovation coming from chefs across the world?
While plenty of people might hate on an aesthetically led trend, I’m all for it. I love discovering new food and people have always eaten with their eyes, so ‘food porn’ is just taking the logical step to experimenting in that area.
What comes hand in hand with that though is a dining experience that is all about the experience. Diners are there for the novelty. For the shock factor. For the photos.
Spaghetti Incident opened on Stokes Croft a couple of weeks ago. Its launch strategy was a hand-written sign in the large glass window saying “We’re opening next week!”. I'm so used to seeing PR stunts, grand launch parties and Piers-fucking-Morgan having an opinion on it that the lo-fi route really stood out to me. I got to work after seeing the sign and found nothing on Google about them. Sold. I made plans to go there that week.
Pizza Fritta is the order of the day; super light pizzas that are cooked by quickly frying on the bottom only, giving you this great contrast of texture between the crunchy base and pillowy naan-esque dough.
Pizza Fritta sits somewhere between a pizza and a middle eastern flatbread. And that’s represented in the accompanying toppings, with our table ordering one topped with baba ganoush and the other a more Italian-staple of mozzarella, basil and tomato.
Both were quickly wolfed down with a couple of beers - actually so quickly that we forgot to take pictures. It was during this starter course that I started to pick up on a feeling that this wasn’t just a restaurant and more of a communal meeting place. I could easily just pop in for one of these and a beer/wine on my travels around Bristol.
I rarely think of restaurants as having that ‘your local’ feel that you get with pubs, but here I felt the ingredients were all there. I also didn’t feel like this was an ‘Italian Restaurant’; more that it was a restaurant that could’ve easily opened up it’s doors in Rome instead of Stokes Croft.
The menu is split into two sections - The Romans and The Specials. The Roman half of the menu is a selection of classic, simple dishes sourced from Rome.
With simple food, you can’t hide behind process, pomp and food colourings - It’s either good or it isn’t. I ordered the Maccheroni in an Amatriciana sauce with Guanciale. Guanciale is the Lazio-region equivalent of pancetta, made from cured pig cheeks. It’s big in flavour, which melts and infiltrates into the sauce, giving it a deep umami flavour. My kind of food.
We also picked one from The Specials menu as well - the more chef-y side of the menu. We ordered Wild Mushroom Stuffed Gnocchi with sage-infused butter and parmesan. The Gnocchi was ultra-light and fluffy, taking presentation cues from a pâtissière. A couple of deep fried sage leaves and parmesan crisps added an extra texture and punch to the dish that really brought it all together.
If I was being overtly critical, I would’ve wanted a bit more sage coming through in the melted butter. You don’t want sage to overpower everything but I personally think there was still room to get a touch more sage punch into the dish.
No, not just any old Tiramisu for pudding. A bloody factory of Tiramisu! I don’t usually eat pud when I’m eating out, but who can turn down an option that proudly calls itself a factory? Your Tiramisu flavour choices are regular, strawberry, pistachio or amaretto - we went for the latter two.
Two pots of light, creamy treats were quickly brought out. Both absolutely delicious and definitely called for them to be washed down with an espresso. Again, we completely forgot to take pictures in our haste.
This kind of food - and this kind of place - isn’t what you see causing a stir across instagram, twitter and facebook. It’s made for you to enjoy there and then. To put a smile on your face and vow to go back there as soon as possible. And it succeeds in all of that.
Where: 36 Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3QD
Price: Starters £5-£6 // Mains £8-£14 // Dessert £5
Article by Alex Fenwick