Since 2010 Trullo has served great Italian food from its home in busy Highbury Corner, just opposite the Hen and Chickens Theatre and a minute’s walk away from Highbury & Islington overground. An unfussy and understated place, there is nothing to signpost the fact it is an Italian trattoria other than its name (a “trullo” is a traditional dry stone hut found in the region of Apulia in the ‘heel’ of Italy). Inside you won’t encounter any cheesy bric-a-brac, black and white photos of people eating spaghetti or warbling Italian opera music – just stripped-back wooden floorboards, plain white walls, hanging light bulbs and the occasional exposed air duct. The ground floor is just one large dining area, a bar with a whirring coffee grinder that never takes a sickie, a semi-open kitchen, and around the periphery a shelf with random framed pictures sitting thereon, deliberately unhung. It could be a Bohemian artist’s flat. The whole place has a disarming domesticity.
the food doesn’t look particularly elegant at Trullo… but it tastes amazing
So, with no other distractions, the food and drink have nowhere to hide. Fortunately, the Italian wine list is strong, divided by region and grapes and including some obscure and underrated choices. The food is wonderfully simple and flavoursome. On the day I popped in for lunch there were many tempting options for primi, such as chicken liver linguine, but in the end I decided to test the kitchen with something really basic (you have to get the fundamentals right). I had a goats curd and marjoram butter ravioli, decorated with grated parmesan and freckled with cracked pepper. When it was plonked on my table, a heavenly waft of cheese greeted me. The goats curd oozed out of the ravioli when punctured; the sauce (made, I imagine, from just starchy pasta water and cheese) lifted by the freckling of pepper. It instantly reminded me of the best plate of ravioli I’ve ever had – at Ristorante Archimede Sant’Eustachio in Rome – and that’s quite a compliment.
The lamb had sold out so I opted for the short rib of beef for secondi. A good choice. It was served on the bone, cooked on the charcoal grill, and melted in the mouth. It came with just runner beans in a creamy sauce with peppers (creamy sauces may be more French than Italian, but in situations like this great flavour supersedes pedantry).
I will admit the food doesn’t look particularly elegant at Trullo… but it tastes amazing. Not bad value either: lunch, two glasses of wine, an espresso and service came to £50, bang on the nose.
There seemed to be a heck of a lot of staff not doing much, but the service didn’t suffer for it (unlike Luca). I’m sure the reserve troops are deployed when it gets busy in the evenings (and busy it gets). At lunchtime the service was laid-back without being sleepy. The way my waiter would acknowledge orders with an “okey dokey” exemplified the attitude of this place: quiet confidence, not arrogance. I wasn’t rushed, nor was I interrogated on how each dish was. They let you take your time.
I wasn’t rushed, nor was I interrogated on how each dish was. They let you take your time
Trullo has been going strong since 2010 and it’s easy to see why: all of the ingredients are so damn right. And the menu is different every day so it always leaves you wanting more. Let’s hope they keep up the good work and never change.
300-302 St Paul's Road
by J A Smith