Several of my friends have raved to me about Marzano's takeaway pizza. So, after listening to them extolling the virtues of the light bases and the quality toppings, I decided to pay the restaurant a visit.
To an extent, they were right. My bufala pizza was perfectly simple, well executed and rather good. The base was lovely and thin, crisp around the edges and not at all soggy. The tomato sauce was fresh and tasted homemade, rounds of buffalo mozzarella was milky white and pure (although a little sparse) and a handful of basil leaves added a splash of sweetness.
Sadly though, this standard wasn't maintained across the board. My beef carpaccio starter came with a pile of mixed salad leaves, rather than the rocket stated on the menu and was topped with slivers of Parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil.
There was plenty of raw beef but it just lacked a certain something; the meat wasn't quite gamey enough and it could've done with a squeeze of lemon to lift it. The Parmesan felt plasticky and, again, the flavour didn't resonate strongly enough; it had none of the crumbly texture and salty-sweet crystals that explode in the mouth when the cheese is aged.
Similarly, bruschetta al funghi was fine but not a dish to really celebrate. The mushrooms were seasoned, the grilled focaccia was warm and crisp and the cheese was melted, but that was it. The mushrooms in particular needed something else - a hint of garlic to intensify the flavour or a sprinkling of fresh thyme to bring out the earthiness of the funghi.
My friend's veal cutlets with porcini mushroom sauce was a disappointing main course, particularly when compared with the pizza. The veal was chewy, with a strangely grainy texture and it was served with sliced button mushrooms rather than prized porcini (which have a distinctive appearance and a meaty, vaguely nutty flavour). The sauce itself tasted rather like a standard steakhouse peppercorn sauce and had an odd, powdery aftertaste. The accompanying mash was nice and buttery, but much too lumpy for a restaurant offering; the consistency being rather more akin to something you'd serve at home midweek, when time is short and you haven't been particularly thorough with the potato masher.
It might have been advertised as the classic version on the menu, but I'd argue that there was very little that was traditional about my tiramisu. It looked like a large slice of cream gateau and I couldn't taste any mascarpone. When you cut into it, the centre was made from a cakey sponge, rather than sponge fingers and after a mouthful, there wasn't the lingering coffee flavour that I normally associate with this dessert. My friend's mango panna cotta, however, was far better. It was creamy with a nice wobble and a lovely subtle, yet heady, exotic fruit flavour.
At Marzano, they've got their pizza right, it's just that apart from that too much of our meal was very mediocre. Which means that perhaps my friends were right, after all: I should've just stuck with the takeaway.
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