The day before I returned to the Southampton, I met my close friend Kelly for lunch on Poole Quay; I have barely seen her all year and this was to be the last time for a while. On my visit to Banana Wharf way back in August, I came across a restaurant just opposite called Italian Gossip. I was attracted enough by the image on their website, which pictures a young woman holding a sign reading:
I don’t repeat gossip, so listen closely.
That’s a maxim by which I try to live.
Like its neighbouring restaurants, Italian Gossip gives you a stunning view over the harbour, which wasn’t all that stunning when the skies are clouded over grey (typical of a day off for me and Kelly). It is all very chic and stylishly decorated with a monochrome scheme, black leather chairs and well-polished granitesque tables. But contrary to this quite luxurious-looking décor, the lunch menu (a separate one is served in the evenings) and prices suggest otherwise. It does not really set itself apart from other Italian restaurants in the main course department, with pizzas, pastas and risottos making for most of the selection.
My choice was called Tortelloni Loren (see pictured) – a dish that normally comes with mushrooms (not in this case of course), ham and peas in a creamy tomato sauce. Tortelloni is a similar pasta to ravioli, only the parcels in this case contain a mixture of spinach and ricotta cheese. When served, I requested quite a generous portion of grated parmesan – just to add a little salt to the mixture, as ricotta can be quite a subtle and light flavour.
I could not help but notice the difference in presentational effort, for want of a better way of putting it, between this dish and the Risotto Marco Polo (see pictured) that Kelly ordered. Mine merited no pasta bowl, instead just spooned casually onto the square plate. Kelly’s dish however had a sizeable bowl with a square plate underneath, and as a result looked much more refined to look at. Just because I, unlike many restaurant critics, like to eat with my mouth as opposed to my eyes, it does not mean I don’t dock marks for bad presentation.
While we’re on the subject of eating with my mouth, I can tell you that I was very satisfied with the dish. Each little Tortelloni parcel delivered such a beautiful flavour, especially coated in the delightful tomato cream sauce. Having the parmesan there did help, as I found the ham had lost a lot of its flavour in the cooking process. In addition, unlike what I would normally think, I found the peas actually belonged in a dish like this – to add a little sweetness to the cornucopia of tastes going on on the plate.
Kelly’s risotto was also full of flavour – the rice was well-infused with the tastes of tomato and red pepper, if a little on the dry side. I left the slice of chicken that topped the dish off alone deliberately – I wasn’t entirely sure it looked as juicy and succulent as it could have done.
Italian Gossip boasts its own master chef, who is responsible for their handmade desserts. Don’t get excited – neither of us had a dessert, as most if not all of what was on offer appeared to be more like drinks than actual puddings – all of them mainly containing a lot of alcohol – and with the menu description as my only basis for the portion sizes, cannot possibly have been worth the price. Master chef-made or otherwise!
I think this restaurant is somewhere better visited in the evenings, where the menu might be a bit more expansive – especially the desserts. But in no way the worst meal I have had this year so far.