An irresistible attitude to food and hospitality at Olivelli by Joe Campbell

Prego Italian Food London Waterloo Antipasti

we arrived at Olivelli during the busy lunch rush on a chilly autumn day. When we peered inside I noticed only one free table. “The staff will be rushed off their feet,” I thought, “it will take an age for my lunch to arrive.” Then I noticed something curious; the staff were not rushing from table to table, they were looking calm and relaxed whilst they were chatting to their customers, and everybody had a smile on their face. My waiter then, directing me to my seat, took my coat and welcomed me to Olivelli.

Within moments my concern of a rushed lunch had been put to rest. The demeanour and attitude of the staff had told me I shouldn’t worry, that I should take a deep breath and soak up the alleviative atmosphere. We were all too keen to get on board with that, so instead of choosing what we wanted to eat, we let Rosario and his team take care of us. I only had one request – I wanted to be reminded of my holidays to Sicily. “Grazie” I then said, calling upon my limited Italian. Just as I suspected, I was then met with my most favourite of Italian words: “Prego.”

Prego Italian Food London Waterloo Antipasti Arancini Panella
In its simplest form Prego means “you’re welcome”, but to a native Italian, its meanings are almost endless. It can mean anything from “can I help you?” to “please, enjoy yourself”, depending on the context, and it is certainly not limited to culinary scenarios. The word is a term of endearment between strangers, friends and family, and is a way to signify that the other person has your attention and respect. If a smile could be expressed as a word, it would be Prego. In this particular context, it told me that what I was about to eat would be thoroughly authentic.

The meal started with a glass of Valpolicella; a sweet and light-bodied red wine that pleasantly complimented the first course. Italian food’s homely style gives it a tendency to look delicious however it is presented, but I could tell from the antipasti that we were served how much care and attention had gone into it. Typical Italian delicacies were nestled neatly beside slightly more uncommon Sicilian treats such as the panella (chickpea fritters), the caponata (stewed aubergine salad) and the most sumptuous of Sicilian comfort foods: the arancini. Translating to “little orange”, an arancini is a small ball of rice stuffed traditionally with a ragu sauce, which is then fried in breadcrumbs to give it a golden-orange colour. All of the antipasti components were, quite simply, delicious.

“If a smile could be expressed as a word, it would be ‘Prego’

The next course was just as delicious, and had a flair that complimented its traditional style. The Linguine con Sarde was a perfectly cooked pasta with the seaside saltiness of sardines and the earthy kick of wild fennel pesto. This was accompanied by a glass of the distinctively Sicilian Nero d’Avola. This wine tasted smooth and sweet like the Valpolicella, but had a more robust flavour that matched the rich taste of the pesto perfectly.

Prego Italian Food London Waterloo Dessert Tiramisu Cannoli Panna Cotta
I was almost ready to call it a day, having been filled to the brim with delicious food, but when offered a dessert I realised that one does not think of Sicilian food without thinking of gelato. I felt like a kid at Christmas when we were served my favourite flavour: nocciola (hazelnut). As an extra treat, the staff presented us with a mini dessert platter that included a panna cotta, a tiramisu and a cannoli – regarded as the definitive Sicilian pastry. Each dessert tasted different, but all felt part of the same concept, delectable yet simple.

This was reflective of my whole experience at Olivelli, where the food was impressive enough to make my taste-buds take note, but simple and homely enough that it never got in the way of good conversation. I realised that this is the essence of Italian food and culture; good ingredients and great food is a given, and without the spectacle of say, French cuisine, the dishes compliment an atmosphere in which everybody enjoys themselves and everybody is made to feel welcome. We felt so at home, in fact, that we lost track of time after talking to Rosario and his staff about everything from wine to the weekend’s football.

Thanks to the food and the friendliness of the staff, I spent the entire time in Olivelli remembering what it felt like to be in the warm air of Palermo and Catania. It was finally time to leave, and my request to be taken back to Sicily had been thoroughly granted.

Prego Italian Food London Waterloo Olivelli The Cut Waiter Chef Staff

61 The Cut
t: 020 7261 1221

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