There's something wonderfully serene about Belpassi Bros. Maybe it's their delicious home cooking; maybe it's their rustic furnishings; maybe it's the cheeky character that hovers over the entire venue. Either way, Tooting now has a great spot where locals and visitors can recharge and relax, all the while tucking into some delicious meatballs and exquisite, perfectly balanced sides.
The restaurant itself sits only a few paces away from Tooting Broadway station and is, in all honesty, perfectly sized for the vibe the two brothers are hoping to create. With room for no more than 50 diners, the layout of the restaurant, alongside the distinctly rustic decor, gives it a weightlessness that isn't easily created. The tables are wooden with a purposely unfinished surface, while the walls are similarly kept untidy and scruffy, with each crack and each make-shift candle hole adding that much extra character.
The venue's open kitchen sits at the heart of this plot, shining with pride and pouring out amazing smells that hit you as soon as you step in. With bigger tables near the back for larger groups looking for a bit of privacy, the various candles and naked Edison-bulbs provide dim lighting for the entire restaurant that, alongside the unfinished surfaces, works perfectly to create the honest vibes of this calming, almost-therapeutic spot in Tooting.
The Food & Drink
Casual dining at its best, the two brothers have created a menu that simultaneously washes you with a warm, homely feeling while still bursting with life and vibrant flavour. Composed of both small plates perfect for sharing and a selection of built-your-own meatball dishes, it's evident as soon as the first forkful touches your mouth that traditional home recipes are central to things here.
The handful of meatballs on offer are all exquisite in taste, freshly rolled and perfectly seasoned with fresh garden herbs. We dove straight into the Angus beef and salt marsh lamb meatballs (£7.50 each), each of which was perfectly cooked, topped with a thankfully generous amount of parmesan cheese and slathered in rich tomato sauce. Exploding off the palate, the san marzano tomato and basil sauce is a real treat. Undoubtedly fresh, the sweetness of the tomato perfectly balances with the aromatic taste of the basil, before being overcome by a sudden and pleasantly surprising spicy kick; never over-bearing or over-powering, this sauce wonderfully enhances the flavours of the meatballs and, in many ways, gives the entire dish the distinctive edge that allows it to stand out.
Of course, the menu doesn't end with its meatballs. An impressive selection of tapas-style sides and small plates are perfect for sharing and wonderfully add different dimensions to the meal without off-setting the taste of the meatballs. The chicken liver crostini (£4), topped with caramelised onions and potent vinaigrette, is an idyllic juxtaposition of crunchy and smooth, while the rosemary and garlic chips (£4) and the delicate parmesan polenta chip (£4) are both seasoned well and impossibly light. But the best thing about the menu, beside the amazing tastes and perfectly cooked, tender meat, is how well every dish is integrated, both with each other and with the venue's overarching vibe.
The Atmosphere & Clientele
Whatever you think of the food, you can't help but smile at what Lorenzo and Livio have done here. As the casual dining craze continues to sweep across London, the brothers have perfected their experience, pointing every detail and aspect of this restaurant towards offering a stress-free, calm and serene night. Of course, that's to be expected, given that they cut their teeth at Old Spitalfields Market, serving their meatballs out of the back of a charming food van. The restaurant's main clientele will be locals in the area, specifically the many young friends catching up over a meal and the fresh-faced couples, swooning over an assortment of sides. That said, the combination of a playful, refreshing atmosphere and a stellar menu of home-cooked recipes will undoubtedly make a splash. It's exactly the sort of place you'd expect two young brothers to build, and that's something that should be revered.
From the fantastic dishes to the homely decoration, the duo have nailed casual dining. Belpassi Bros doesn't ask much of its guests. Instead, it welcomes everyone with wide open arms, a tomato sauce-stained smile and serves up an easy-going evening that we all dream of after work. It's alluring, honest and above all, will leave you in a state of food-induced bliss.