Londoners fell hard for Trullo when it opened back in 2010. The restaurant's popularity has remained steady in the seven years since, and it has come to represent the power of simple food served in uncomplicated settings. In a city where restaurants come and go like buses, places like this provide a steadying comfort, offering seasonal Italian plates such as oven-baked fish, handmade pasta and crumbly almond tart washed down with plenty of wine. It's fuss-free dining at a reasonable price, every night of the week.
Located just off Highbury Corner, head chef Tim Siadatan opened Trullo with his partner Jordan Frieda. Their vision was simple - to create a neighbourhood restaurant serving real, regional Italian. Since then, Tim has tapped in to his former experience in the kitchens of Moro and St John, introducing subtle British and other global flavours to the menu.
Guests at Trullo sink in to brown leather booths in front of tables dressed in white cloth. Just like a classic trattoria, the windows are half-concealed by net curtains, the walls are white and the dark wooden floorboards are chipped. Their silky beef-shin ragu with pappardelle has become an unwavering staple. And if you've had the pleasure of tucking into a plate - either here or at sister restaurant Padella in Borough Market - you'll understand why. This month sees the release of Tim's debut cookbook, Trullo, which celebrates the British-leaning Italian fare that has led to the restaurant's roaring success.
Tim took a moment's break from whipping up the best pasta in town to chat about his new book, travel and the joys of a perfectly ripe tomato.
Where does your love for Italian food come from?
My love of Italian food stems a family holidays in Italy and training under Jamie Oliver at Fifteen.
What are your memories of the early days of Trullo? How has the restaurant changed since it opened?
It was hard work - and I was about two stone lighter! Now Trullo is a well-oiled machine with a professional, passionate and fun team who help create a beautiful neighbourhood restaurant day in, day out.
How has your cooking developed since opening your own restaurants?
When I first started I played it safe with regional Italian food and lacked some confidence within my own cooking capability. As the years have gone by I have become more ambitious and starting experimenting using my experience of growing up in the UK and working at St John and Moro. We're still very much an Italian restaurant but there's British accent.
You don't stay strictly within the Italian cuisine bracket, where does the other inspiration for dishes come from?
Between Jordan and I we have worked at The River Café, St John and Moro - three of the best restaurants in London. We wanted to use our experience of awesome schooling and bring it to an affordable local restaurant. I think we achieved that, which is why it's become such a success.
What is one of your fondest memories of eating in Italy?
I have so many, but one my earliest was when I was 14 and for the first time ate huge, perfectly ripe tomato in the middle of August, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. I realised then how special food can be.
What was your childhood like in terms of food? Who taught you to cook?
My childhood food was a real mongrel of dishes ranging from old-school English and quite decadent dishes from my granny to hearty family meals such as shepherd's pie or spag bol cooked by my mum. Then when I stayed with my dad he would make Iranian food - subconsciously, I think I learned a lot between them.
What is it about Italian food that you think attracts people so much?
I think people are drawn to Italian food because it's just so flavoursome but also provides a balanced diet - Italians know what the human body needs.
Is there any one place in Italy you visit regularly?
I suppose Tuscany around the olive harvest is the one place I go every year. Otherwise I mix it up and tend to love every part I visit.
Tell us about the new book. How long have you been working on it? And what can we expect to find in there?
The Trullo cookbook has been a real labour of love and took a lot of work. It's all of the greatest hits from Trullo over the past seven years and is laid out like the menu. It includes lots of tips on all sorts of things, like how to roll pasta, make the perfect pulses or roast a game bird, as well as well as barbecue food, little snacks and, of course, all the carefully balanced sauces.