It is an old tradition in my family that when one is hunting for an eatery, the best ones are off the beaten track. And true enough, half way down Devonshire Road in the heart of Chiswick is a tiny little café, a haven to Italian craft beer. ‘The UK’s first Italian craft beer pub’, The Italian Job draws on Italy’s eclectic craft beer scene, showcasing a variety of provenances and styles.
The Italian Job is rustic without trying too hard, and gives the overall feeling of sitting in a provincial Italian kitchen. Filament light bulbs, distressed floorboards, bare brick walls and old wooden school chairs are jazzed up with geometric tiles on the bar and a selection of local artwork.
Tables are close together due to the small dining area, but the intimacy creates a relaxed vibe—and the bathrooms are positively gleaming (top marks from me, resident clean freak).
The crowd seems a largely local affair—businessmen popping in for a pint on their way home, ladies catching up over burrata and avocado, and the odd dog-walker (to my delight the sweetest little dachshund was dining alongside us). The vibe is friendly, respectful, and jovial—there’s no silent person sat in the corner nursing a now-warm pint, no rowdiness—with staff welcoming to newcomers and beer novices, happily dishing out knowledgeable advice.
Wednesday evenings host live music from singers with keyboards or acoustic guitars, which adds to the vibrant atmosphere.
The main food menu offers three enormous burgers in ciabatta with accompaniments including crispy speck or an IPA reduction, and a host of traditional Italian sides and light bites (including a most favoured Olives all’Ascolana—large olives stuffed with pork mince and deep fried in breadcrumbs; an Italian scotch egg). It’s the specials that really show off the chef’s skills, with three starters, three mains and an enticing dessert, all homemade and traditionally Italian, with dishes like chicken paillard, truffled venison, and fresh lasagne.
We started with a plate of delicious, fresh arancini (7.50)—risotto balls filled with sausage, peas, cheddar and saffron—creamy and succulent and not doing that irritating ‘falling apart’ thing that shop-bought ones do. The cheese wasn’t too overpowering and the ingredients worked well together, with contrasting textures and the delicate aftertaste of the saffron.
For the main course, I ordered Culurgiones (13.50), which are traditional, handmade stuffed dough pockets, a specialty of the chef’s home region of Sardinia. Stuffed with potato, pecorino and mint, on a plate of beautiful tomato and basil sauce, these are little bundles of cheesy delight. The portion was quite small (five pieces on a plate), but it gave me an excuse to pinch some fat, perfectly cooked chips from my husband’s Italian Job burger (10.50).
Hankering for the dessert special, we ordered the chocolate fondant with orange and rhubarb (6.50) and two spoons. The rhubarb and orange is an interesting combination—one that worked extremely well, the sweet orange balancing the tanginess of the rhubarb. The fondant was oozy and gooey (and far too good for sharing).
With 12 artisan beers on draught and an even larger bottled beer selection, there’s a huge variety, ranging from the more easy-drinking options, such as an unfiltered pilsner and a blanche-style beer brewed with hibiscus, all the way to a rich chilli stout and hoppy double IPAs.
Sadly the experience was wasted on me as I still haven’t developed a taste for beer, but fortunately I had with me a partner in crime (and brewmaster) to taste and sample a good proportion of their ales. The trick seems to be to have a few samples and order in half pints, ensuring you get to try as many of the beers as possible.
With a small, well-curated selection of Italian wines (three red and three white) and a bigger list of spirits, including local gins, there is something here for everyone. I can recommend the Sauvignon Viridis, which is dry with a refreshing richness, and underlying notes of green pepper, sage, and passion fruit.
There’s little to criticise at The Italian Job and much to commend—a limited but well-selected and well-prepared food menu that changes often, and by brilliant contrast, an extensive range of interesting beers to broaden your knowledge and taste buds.
The Italian Job, 13 Devonshire Road, Chiswick, W4; 020 8994 2852; www.theitalianjobpub.co.uk