The place is run by a classic restaurateur family called Polledri, who opened Bar Italia in the same street in 1949. Little Italy followed, and the people running it now are the third generation. It's atmospheric, there's a lot of opera playing, and the walls are covered in black-and-white photos of people who look like gangsters.
It serves classic Italian grub. The set lunch is fantastic value: soup or pasta of the day, with other dishes thrown in. The a la carte menu has long descriptions of the dishes: all sorts of pasta, the meat is beautiful (the liver absolutely delicious), and they do a great mixed fish dish.
They have lovely homemade puddings such as tiramisu, and a massive Italian wine list. And they do the meanest Virgin Mary. By the time current boss Antonio spots you, he's already mixing it.
It's a pleasantly smart but informal place. You get space between the tables to talk, you can be loud, or you can go up top and be quiet - it caters for everything. The staff are very discreet and they know their clientele. As an alternative to more traditional places like the Ivy, I'd take anybody there, whether it's Suggs from Madness, or clients like Rowan Atkinson or Barry Humphries. Lunch is such a vital part of my day: I'm 'never knowingly underlunched'. For that reason I'd never want to work anywhere else.
21 Frith Street, London, W1D 4RN, 020 7734 4737
Set lunch menu £16.50 (for two courses), £19.50 (three
Mixed fish £19.50
- Peter Bennett-Jones is founder of PBJ talent management agency.