I don’t know what it is with me and vegetarian restaurants these days, but I found myself in yet another one recently. Meeting up with a vegetarian friend in the City for supper after work one evening, I thought I’d try and find a specialist vegetarian restaurant as a treat so that she wasn’t just limited to one or two options on the menu for a change.
Amico Bio has been set up and is being run by three Italian cousins. The chef proprietor Pasquale Amico has been cooking since he was a small boy and has, over the years, gained experience with some notable Italian chefs. His first London venture, Via Condotti, awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand.
Amico Bio is a vegetarian and organic restaurant. It’s also an Italian restaurant. Despite the regular abundance of meat in Italian cooking, it is one of the few rare cuisines where you can probably get away with extracting meat from a dish without the diner really feeling like they’re missing out, thanks to the balance of smart ingredients and seasoning.
Supplied mostly by his cousin’s family farm in Capua with organic fruit and vegetables, Pasquale really captures the essence of good, hearty Italian home-cooking. Just without the meat.
We were greeted with a warm welcome when we arrived on a busy Friday evening. The restaurant was packed, so we grabbed ourselves a quick drink in the nearby Rising Sun pub before heading back 15mins later. When we returned and were seated, I delighted in seeing that there are shelves full of fantastic looking produce surrounding us. I am a total sucker for Italian groceries, especially when in well-designed packaging, so I stuffed my purse firmly down inside my bag and tried not be be distracted by the additional wares on offer.
Looking at the menu my eyes were immediately drawn to the ‘Arancini di riso con mozarella e piselli’ in the starter list. Upon seeing Arancini on the menu, I knew that all would be ok. At the very least I would be able to deep fried rice, so all would be well with the world.
My friend and I feasted hungrily on the deep fried rice balls, followed by delicious pasta with pumpkin and gnocchi with tomato and basil sauce. The food is unpretentious, saving all of its energy for just being comforting and tasty. The wine selection is rather limited, but still good. We had a bottle of Barbera Doc 2010, La Raia, which was one of those ‘velvet boxing glove’ wines that is perfect to sink into over a bowl of warming pasta.
In summary, Amico Bio is not just a great vegetarian restaurant, but it’s a great Italian restaurant. In fact, it’s so good that I even went back with another friend last night for more of the same. Being really reasonably priced too (£60 for a sharing starter, 2 mains, cheeseboard, bottle of wine and bottle of sparkling water) I feel that this may become a regular haunt.