By Claire Roberts
When I found out that I had got the draw for the Italy v Slovakia match at Rossopomodoro in Covent Garden, I was chuffed but also aware at the back of my mind that this might involve a heaving mass of throbbing testosterone-filled Italians shouting insults and such at the screen. A bad thing? Hey, I love Italy and I love Italian food. Football, I’m not so sure. But there’s nothing wrong with a bit of liberally applied testosterone for a girl out for the afternoon, even if I’m not a football fan.
I meet Pam, my trusty friend in matters to do with food and throbbing men, inside the restaurant upstairs on the first floor. There’s a small screen for the football on the ground floor but we bypass that and go upstairs where they have a much larger screen for the seriously minded footie fan. I’m guessing the screen is about three metres wide. It’s big. Turns out Pam is not just a devotee of food and men but also of football. She’s got £50 on a sweepstake at work – Slovakia to win.
So, one lover of all things Italian and another, gunning for the other side. We sit at our great table, right by the window with the discretion necessary for spies in the camp. It’s really good to see that this isn’t going to be a throbbing frenzy of footie fans but a civilised lunch in a comfortable airy Italian restaurant, with a screen for football fans. Or so I thought.
I was looking forward to the food – the best pizza I ever had was in Naples. That was a while ago and though I have had pizza in its infinite varieties since, nothing comes remotely close to the quality of the pizza in Naples. We order starters; A Mulignanona (fried aubergine balls in a parmesan basket with a warm cherry tomato salad) and A Tiella (traditional Neopolitan fritters, mozzarella and parmesan abound), both generously sized and generous in taste. The tomatoes taste sweet; the mozzarella is creamy and soft.
The football, meanwhile, is slow. The other diners eat and talk as you might expect during lunch on a gorgeous summer afternoon. And then Slovakia score. All hell breaks loose. Turns out you don’t need a whole lot of Italians to make a heaving frenzy. Their displeasure is apparent. Pam smiles. Discreetly.
The mains for us are Fru Fru (three seasons pizza) and Fratesse (Provola cheese, rocket and vegetable pizza). You know what? I think I might have actually found a place to get a pizza as good as the one I had in Naples.
Hell breaks out again when Slovakia score for the second time, 2-0. The game is quite exciting. Even I can say that as a non-footie fan, especially when Italy get themselves together to get their first goal. And they keep going at it until the end, even if it does mean throwing a punch in the face of the Slovak goalie. Fouls aplenty on both sides - these boys wanted to win. In the end, Italy, the world champions, are out. Even the superb goal in extra time couldn’t do it for them. The final score: 3:2. Pam and her £50 on the Slovaks: still intact.
Italians might have lost their touch with football but they definitely haven’t lost their touch with food. Genuine Napolese food - all of the ingredients flown in from Italy - genuine good service. Thought I might have to get on a plane again to get a decent pizza. Not so. I’ll be eating in Rossopomodoro again.