A fast food restaurant is not something I associate with Italian style eating, because usually there are a fair amount of courses to get through for it ever to be eaten fast. But Francesca is exactly that, a newly opened Italian restaurant situated on Baker Street. I remember one meal in particular whilst on a holiday in Rome where I went to a friends’ family’s restaurant for lunch and we ate all the way through to dinner! There were a lot of courses, which is the traditional way to eat, and can consist of:
Aperitivo – wines, processco, olives
Antipasti – charcuterie, ham, bruschetta
First course – something a bit heavier like risottos and lasagnas
Second course – the heartiest of them all being a fish or meat based dish
Sides – vegetables
Dessert – along the lines of a panna cotta, tiramisu
Fruits – optional.
All to be washed down with a coffee or limoncello/grappa at the end. That’s a lot of eating right? But done over time can make for a really special, and filling, dining experience. Francesca offers an exact opposite to dining in this way. Most of the food is pre-prepared like the salads, paninis and sauces that go with the pastas, but the pasta is cooked to order. You pick what you want from the menu board and place your order at the counter where they then aim to turn your meal around within 2 minutes.
What I love about Italian food is its simplicity, so its really important that good quality ingredients are used and thankfully they are here. Their producers use traditional methods and are sourced from around Italy.
The polpette (meatballs) with farfalle pasta is good. The polpette has got quite a different texture to a standard meatball – more spongey and flaky but really nice and flavoursome. The thick rich sauce that comes with it does not overpower and is actually quite a light dish. The parma ham is rich, velvety and practically melts-in-your-mouth and not at all chewy, which can sometimes be the case. The frutti de mare is not too vinegary so you’re able to distinguish all the different bits of seafood in it. The tiramisu has maybe a tad too much mascarpone/cream in relation to the sponge, but is light and fluffy.
There is an air of corporate functionality dining at Francesca and the plastic trays that you are given do cheapen it a little, especially as they’ve spent money on proper plates and cutlery. But overall, it’s a clean and inviting space that includes a lounge area to sit and chill in. Francesca is great for a quick fix of good Italian cuisine and with the average price of a pasta dish coming in at around £6, not bad value too. They also offer a takeaway service.
Food I Fancy dined as a guest of Francesca.
215 Baker Street, London NW1