70 Tooting High St, London SW17 0RN www.belpassibros.com
The balls are rolling in Tooting, Nick goes bowling to see how a new meatball merchant is playing out
I’ve lived around South London all my life and Tooting has always been the go-to place for’Indian’ food, particularly vegetarian restaurants and sweets. The restaurants are jammed next to each other all the way down the main road, you can never park during the day and the traffic crawls along.
Just outside Tooting Broadway tube and opposite Sainsbury’s is Belpassi Bros. It stands out immediately because it’s not a fried chicken shop or an’Indian’. It looks Soho chic with its simple scrubbed tables and bare walls and the clientele look more Clapham than Tooting; nice middle-class young people with disposable income, jobs in town and genuine prospects.
Not that you need much money to eat here, the mains are £7.50 for 4 balls with sauce, or £9.50 for 4 balls with a base and sauce. A bit more than a box of nuggets of course but then this is superior food.
The Belpassi Bros started their meatball adventure rolling in a vintage 1967 Fiat van, in iconic Old Spitalfields Market and this is their first bricks and mortar outlet. You’d think it would be more at home in East London, but the owners are from around South London and obviously rents are far cheaper, so here they are and they deserve a cheer.
We tried the cicchetti; Pea & Ricotta Bruschetta was almost perfect; the peas not too smashed, the bread good quality, the ricotta generous. If it had been served other than fridge cold it would have been even better as the chill masked the flavours until half way through when it finally arrived to room temperature.
You can’ t really go wrong with meatballs, they are basically round burgers and everyone loves burgers, right? Well obviously there’s more to it than that but even so you’re always on solid ground in London with mince.
You mix and match your balls and sauces Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Duroc Pork, Angus Beef, or a mix of both, and lamb. While for for any veggies that wandered in by mistake, there are chickpea and kale balls.
The bases can be rigatoni, polenta or chilli greens and the homemade sauces are amatriciana, san marzano, tomato and basil, or pesto.
I had the pork/beef mix on a bed of Swiss chard and it was good with two small caveats. I like my meat balls browned off more, as there’s more flavor from a browned exterior. Secondly the chard should have had its ribs removed. The ribs take far longer than the leaves to cook, especially when the leaves are large, and as these leaves had been barely wilted in the first place the stems were far too tough too enjoy.
Great tomato sauce though, as was P’s on her lamb meatballs. Mine was spicy while hers was straight up tomato flavours. She reported the pasta tubes properly al dente, the meatballs tasty but a little too dense, which is always a danger with meatballs and especially with lamb ones. You want a meatball to be slightly loose, not over compressed. Otherwise no complaints
We had a tiramisu each for dessert, which was workmanlike and did the job but could have usefully have been boozy. I rather like a splash of Masala in mine.
Talking of which the simple red wine was spot on, not expensive or classy but properly Italian tratt-tastic. We left thinking the Bros were alright; affordable and tasty food with its heart in the right place and Tooting a good place to get the balls rolling.