Rossella is one of those precious, increasingly rare things in London: a sit-down restaurant where you can eat well for little more than a fiver. An intensely cosy, family-run Italian place, it occupies a patch of ungentrified ground between Kentish Town and Gospel Oak, just a few hundred yards from Hampstead Heath. Inside, it’s small and low-lit, with murals and an ice-cream bar up front. There are a couple of alfresco tables where you can sit in your coat and kid yourself you’re in Naples; in the summer it even throws a street party. Rossella’s a neighbourhood restaurant in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Most of the people who eat here don’t need to look at the menu; they’re local, and they’ve been coming here for years. The best dishes on the menu are the simplest. Spaghetti napoli (£5.50) was a deep bowl of beautifully al dente pasta – the tomato sauce slow-cooked, comforting and sweet. Carbonara, too, was fantastic: thick with cream and crispy pancetta, without being the least bit overwhelming. Of the small plates, the zucchini fritti – juicy little squares of courgette coated in golden batter – are a must-order. There was also a lovely caprese salad: a fat ball of mozzarella perched precariously on top of two garlicky slices of hot ciabatta.
The pizza was also delicious. All priced between £6-£8, they’re large and gloriously un-trendy: both classic (napoli, margherita) and Americanised (‘feast’, four seasons) variations were served hot and oozy on thin crispy bases without any fuss. You can ask for mayo and chilli flakes and no one will judge you. The service here, by the way, is perfect. Everyone’s genuinely lovely and treats you like a regular.
There’s a rotating menu of specials but, honestly, you don’t need them. The fancier the dish here, the more it tends to disappoint. Stick to the basics. If I could pick my last meal on earth – for pure comfort factor – Rossella’s spaghetti napoli would be it.