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Selfie-satisfaction, the Tuscan way, at Johnny Bruschetta

High-quality raw ingredients and a skilful chef make for a terrific meal at the former Hop and Berry – but it's ‘broo-sketta’, not 'bruschetta'!

10 May, 2018 — By Tom Moggach

Cheese and wine are the stars at Johnny Bruschetta

WHILE we have cheese on toast, the Italians prefer bruschetta – the crunchy snack with a multitude of toppings – and they offer 18 creative options at Johnny Bruschetta, a new restaurant in Liverpool Road, Islington.

“It’s really a Tuscan thing,” explains the boss, as a waiter walks past balancing a long wooden paddle loaded with bruschette to share. There’s plenty of concept here: order the full two-metres and the staff ring a bell; selfie-sticks on each table encourage sharing online.

It’s the work of the self-styled Johnny Bruschetta, a young Italian restaurateur with a trademark beard. He’s already got three branches in Tuscany. (“Everyone can be Johnny” is the strapline.)

I must admit I had my doubts. For a start, I can’t imagine the more reserved Islington crowd happily waving their selfie sticks. But we enjoyed a terrific meal at Johnny Bruschetta, notable for the high quality of the raw ingredients and a skilful chef.

For the bruschetta, grilled aubergine might be sprinkled with smoked ricotta, confit tomato, chilli and a touch of mint. Other options include meatballs, smoked salmon and cream cheese or porcini mushrooms with crispy pancetta, chicory and gorgonzola.

Yet the menu ventures much further afield. You’ll find a handful of excellent pastas, tagliata steak from Chianti and specials such as pan-fried duck with polenta or sea bass with orange, fennel and black olives.

The location is on the site of an old pub called The Hop and Berry. This then enjoyed a short run as a placed called Cured, which has now morphed into Johnny Bruschetta. A Piaggio Ape 50 van is parked outside. Indoors, there’s a gleaming central bar, marble and wooden tables and small courtyard out back.

The drinks list is high calibre. Top marks for the Panama Creature, a fruity pale ale from Hammerton Brewery. They serve classic cocktails and more than 10 wines by the glass.

If you visit with friends, the ritual of sharing of bruschetta is genuine fun and lets you explore the many flavours.

Be sure to also try the “Coccoli”: fried salty dough balls that you dip into oozy stracchino cheese.

Our pasta dish was expertly cooked: al dente orecchiette smothered in sausage meat, with fragrant fennel seeds and gentle heat from black pepper.

The fish special was spot-on, too. Orange, fennel and black olive is a classic combination; the fish fillets were sparkling fresh and fried to golden.

If you’re a fan of craft beer, pencil May 16 in your diaries. Italy is drenched in artisan breweries and Birradamare is hosting a tasting at Johnny Bruschetta including their smoked beer and chestnut lager. (6.30-9pm; tickets via Eventbrite).

Bruschetta, I only recently discovered, is actually pronounced ‘broo-sketta’. This is embarrassing: I must have made thousands when I slaved in restaurant kitchens, years ago.

Johnny Bruschetta
209/211 Liverpool Road, N1
0207 609 9453
www.johnnybruschetta.co.uk

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