For a lesson in how to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, head to Spuntino. A challenge to find (look for ‘number 61’), the venue is laid out as a bar – and a tiny one at that, with a smattering of fixed, backless seats allowing diners to perch along the counter.
This is no wholesome 1950s-style diner, but a dark, grungy space where dim lights dangle in cages, the walls are cracked and battered, and the staff sport daring tattoos under flimsy vests (and that’s just the girls). The anti-establishment vibe trickles into the menu, which is Italian-American with plenty of ‘additude’. Served mostly on all-the-rage enamelled tin dishes, food features big bold flavours packed into tiny portions: from our dinky slider (mini-burger), filled with moist pulled pork and pickled apple, to a black-edged pizzetta (mini-pizza) topped with long stems of pleasantly bitter cicoria (Italian dandelion), thin salami slices and a hit of chilli.
The salads are equally innovative, as seen in a tumble of kohlrabi (a mild turnip) and apple with crumbly feta, hazelnuts and black sesame seeds. Only dessert proved a let-down; our chocolate, pecan and bourbon cake had plenty of nuts but no discernible liquor. We wondered whether the bartenders had necked it on the sly.