It is a matter of some regret that I am way less Italian than my surname. I didn’t grow up at mia Mama’s knee absorbing pomodoros, mozzarellas, salamis, linguines and tagliatellis. I grew up in Streatham.
So Bibo is no more a sort of homecoming than any other restaurant. Like I suspect many did, I grew up on local high-road Italian trattorias where a red faced, Grandad is running the bar, Dad marshalls the faintly chaotic kitchen, kids and wives are front of house, Grandma is doing the dishes. Fading photos of Amalfi and Frank Sinatra line the walls, as old and fading as the menu. It’s a family friendly, friendly family affair.
And then there is Bibo. Fast forward 20 years, and a few light years in terms of London dining gastronomy, to East Putney’s bizarre main boulevard, populated entirely by restaurants… and estate agents. The citizens of the Republic of Putneyville apparently do little more than eat out and buy houses. Bibo is an exercise in restrained modern Italian dining with contemporary touches to the traditional and the classic. Its all dark woods, crisp linens, whitewashed brickwork and retro chandeliers. Tasteful. Civilized. I am hoping for the warm-hearted classics of the family trattoria, taken up a notch.
And that is exactly what we got. From the homemade Focaccia and sourdough dipped in olive oil to the desserts. Via as we ordered, the Chef’s Special cocktail – a colourful concoction of amaretto and cassis, and a delicate Peporonata crostini with homemade ricotta, broad beans and avocado.
The wine list is populated entirely with Italian wines and Italian vintages with the accent on interesting, smaller producers. A journey through all corners of Italy.
Our Nebbiolo 2012, Produttori del Barbaresco, Piemonte, served from the fridge, brought a robust fruitiness, chilled for the starters, warmer for the mains. And went perfectly well with a platter of salamis and my Linguine vongole. The plate of meats was pinched from the bar menu with fennel salami, wild boar, back bacon and parma ham, especially friendly with the Foccacia. I went trad with linguine, heavy on the wine and meaty clams, with the mildest touch of heat to the broth.
The main courses do exactly what Italian food should do. Fill you up. Pleasurably. Lamb shoulder was perfect pink, the fat light and crispy with a dusky Sicilian entourage of aubergine, tomato, celery and capers. Dessert was an exercise in indulgence, not least as we had two dessert wines with our chocolate budino – little doughnuts with cocoa soil, olive oil and sea salt. Modern Italian restaurants that don’t throw the traditional baby out with their modernizing appear to this non-Italian to embrace the best of both worlds. Bibo does exactly that. Grandad has retired, the kids have taken over, the spirit is alive and well.
146 Upper Richmond Rd, SW15 2SW
020 8780 0592