On Thursday I visited Ponti's Italian Kitchen for a tasting evening to sample its 50th anniversary menu.  The small chain of family-run restaurants from the Emilia Romagna region in Italy is celebrating its fifty years with a selection of simple, classic and inspired Italian dishes; all of which were good.   I can't believe I hadn't discovered this little gem before; a spacious and relaxed haven smack, bang in the middle of town, only twenty metres from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Circus.

We started with bright green, nutty, fresh olives before moving onto roasted butternut squash, Buffalo mozzarella, wilted greens and crispy parmesan. The salami, Parma ham, vine-ripened cherry tomatoes and 18 month matured Parmigiano Reggiano with Sardinian flat bread was perfect.  I missed the next dish of scallops (my only allergy) wrapped in Parma ham in garlic butter with warm focaccia, which did look good, so made up for it by gorging on smoked Scamorza cheese wrapped in Parma ham with sage butter and warm focaccia.  Probably my favourite.

The first of the main dishes was a beautifully chargrilled chicken breast, marinated in pesto and rosemary, with chargrilled vegetables and wilted spinach.  Getting really full now.  Next up was salmon, prawns and clams cooked in a light tomato and saffron sauce.  We finished with a buttery spinach and ricotta raviolini.  I felt like I was going to pop...

We then picked up our glasses, put on our aprons and moved over to the tall tables next to the open kitchen to make our own pizzas.  Ponti's offers DIY pizza-making every night of the week and it's perfect for first dates, small corporate team-building events (the table only fits a maximum of 14 people) and parties.  I had my chicken, mushroom and basil pizza for lunch the next day and I'm already planning my return.  All in all, an impressive evening!  Thanks for having me, team Ponti's.

Ponti’s Italian Kitchen, 5-7 John Princes Street, London W1G 0JN
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