Eight years ago I remember going to the restaurant which situated in the same premises as RustiKo. It was beautiful wood fired pizzas and hearty Italian fayre. I remember having a carbonation type of dish, and really loving it, maybe particularly because I’d just moved to London so everything had this sophisticated edge to it. So that restaurant is no more, however, under the same owenership but following a significant rebrandRustiKo has opened in its place. With quite a different menu from what I can recall, the focus on this reinvention is on a well thought out cocktail menu and simple Italian soul food ‘just like mama used to make’.
First and foremost, the bar is one of the best stocked I’ve seen in a while. They have Chartreuse for goodness sake, as well as ingredients I’ve never heard of, including China Antico Elixir which is apparently a digestif made from South American tree bark. Essentially the kind of ingredients I love to try, and that particular ingredient featured in the cocktail of the week, aClementi, which even if it is off the menu when you visit, is certainly worth ordering. A combination of said elixir, Havana 3 year rum, Cynar (an Italian bitter liqueur made from 13 herbs and plants), vermouth and grapefruit. I had two – and I never repeat cocktails – that’s how good it was.
We also tried the Fresco cocktail which begins with Maraschino cherry liquor and adds tonic, cucumber, rosemary and absinthe mist. From this month Rustiko will introduce its new Beer of the Monthin conjunction with Italian craft aficionados Birrifico del Ducato. Produced in Ducato’s award-winning microbrewery (which has won Brewery of the Year for 2 years running), this month sees the dark strength ofChimera Ale take centre stage. It’s complex, with warming aromas of caramel and alcohol preserved fruits, like plum and pear.
Food was delicious and hearty – twice cooked fries went well alongside fried calamari (dressed with fresh chilli, chive, lemon zest & aioli dip – £6) and chicken croquette balls (with mozzarella, parmesan & parsley – £4) for starters. Everything can be eaten by hand, so lends itself well to sharing and chatting. On the ground floor tables are laid out in rows for two, and upstairs are table set ups for larger groups.
The signature RustiKo pizza (sausage, tomato sauce, potato, red onion, mozzarella – £10) was very tasty, but potato as a topping was kind of unusual at first, but persevere, it’s well worth it. Lobster Linguine (half lobster with cherry tomato, spring onion & brandy sauce – £16) on the other hand is absolutely without fault. Served wrapped in paper and foil to keep in the heat and flavours, it is just bursting with freshness. I ate the whole thing – and I rarely go for a pasta dish. This place really busted me out of routines through sheer impressive food preparation.
Desert was my brother’s favourite, Cannoli (filled with fresh ricotta, chocolate chips and candied citrus – £4), which he absolutely loved. I felt like the lighter option of panacotta, which was served with a shot of warm dark chocolate sauce. Totally divine and delicious combination.
The daily aperitivo (5-7pm) is a happy couple of hours, where items from the cocktail list (composed by the venues experienced mixologists) including the RustiKo Negroni and Italian classics: Campari or Aperol Spritz are £6.50, with a special offer of any 2 drinks on the menu and a gourmet pizza for £20.
Self described as: Situated in the heart of Old Compton Street, RustiKo embodies the vintage Soho experience. Independent, quirky, candle-lit interior, and a funky blues playlist.
Where: 37 Old Compton St, London, W1D 5JY