★★☆☆☆ / Italian

Trattoria Mondello review – retro Italian

Travel back in time to the 1970s

Business lunches can be pot luck in terms of quality since the decision of where to dine is often out of your hands. This was how I ended up at Trattoria Mondello on Goodge Street. I didn’t know quite what to expect, so I was surprised by the retro decor. The rather chilly dining room had been made up to look like a rustic cottage and the walls were festooned with all sorts of kitsch Italian knick knacks.

Even more worrying was the large, unfocussed menu which instantly gave me cause for concern. The friendly and efficient service couldn’t be faulted though.

I started off with the polpo alla siciliana – octopus in a garlic, tomato, parsley, chilli and white wine sauce. I was woefully unimpressed by the overcooked bits of octopus which was far too soft and hadn’t taken on any of the sauce’s flavour. Not that the bland watery sauce had much flavour beyond parsley – there was hardly any garlic or chilli as far as I could taste. Astonishingly poor.

sicilian-style octopus at trattoria mondello

I'd apologise for the slightly blurry photo, but it's probably best you can't see the horror in full clarity.

Just as bad was the spaghetti lobster served in a tomato, onion, brandy and chilli sauce. Despite that impressive list of ingredients, the watery sauce was bland with only a hint of booze suggesting any sort of flavour. The half of lobster was cooked surprisingly inconsistently – some pieces such as the claw were too tough and chewy, while others were far too soft and squishy. The spaghetti was fine, if a little too soft in places. It’s the worst lobster dish I’ve ever had.

spaghetti lobster at trattoria mondello

I honestly don't understand how some restaurants stay in business.

I considered dessert, but decided not to risk it given the appalling quality of my starter and main course.

The Verdict

Trattoria Mondello is what I imagine many high street restaurants were like in Britain back in the 1970s – garishly decorated eateries serving up poorly cooked, blandly flavoured food. The only thing saving Trattoria Mondello from a one star rating is the friendly and efficient service. Unless there are some hidden gems in the labyrinthine menu, there’s no reason to dine at Trattoria Mondello. Even then, it had better be stunning to pull me away from the other quality Italian restaurants nearby that don’t cost the earth, such as Latium.

Name: Trattoria Mondello

Address: 36 Goodge Street, London, W1T 2QN

Phone: 020 7637 9037 ‎

Web: none

Opening Hours: seven days a week noon-15.00 and 17.30-23.00.

Reservations: yeah, if you want.

Total cost for one person including soft drinks but excluding tip: £25 approx.

Rating★★☆☆☆

Mondello on Urbanspoon

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7 thoughts on “Trattoria Mondello review – retro Italian

  1. I was surprised at this review. I’ve eaten there several times and always enjoyed it. Not sure what a “large unfocussed menu” is, but it seems to refer to a menu with a lot of choice on it. I’ve never paid as much as £25 for a lunch, though perhaps this reviewer’s bill included a lot of booze? I’d give it 3.5 stars, and for value for money, 4 stars.

    • Thanks for your comments, but they are based on what I perceive to be several faulty assumptions:

      1. The food at Trattoria Mondello is good. It isn’t, at least not from my experience.
      2. Cheapness = good value. This is a common misconception.
      To put it simply: Expensive + good food = good value. Cheapness + good food = good value. Cheapness + bad or mediocre food = poor value. Trattoria Mondello fulfils that last equation. Cheapness and value are linked, but they are not the same thing.
      3. Choice is always a good thing and being able to choose from lots of individual dishes is the same thing as choice – another common pair of misconceptions. The menu at Trattoria Mondello may be large, but many of the dishes appear to be very, very similar and are merely minor variations of a single, base dish. This appears to be a misguided attempt at pleasing everyone by offering multiple dishes based around a selection of what are perceived to be core ingredients – i.e. beef, chicken, ‘fish’ etc.

      Less traditional restaurants structure their menus very differently. For example, some will design their menus around whatever ingredients are in season or around a particular style of cooking. Others will concentrate on a particular regional cuisine or a selection of dishes from a handful of regional cuisines.

      In the case of Italian restaurants, for example, Sardo designs its menu around Sardinian food. Bocca di Lupo cherry picks a few dishes from a selection of regional Italian cuisines, such as Roman, Tuscan and Ligurian. Polpo largely revolves around Venetian. Their menus don’t have the sheer number of dishes as Trattoria Mondello’s and probably won’t always have a ‘veal’ or ‘spaghetti’ ‘option’, but their tighter focus usually results in a far superior meal in my experience.

      • Simple – if you don’t like it don’t go there but don’t bore us with your pretentious literary diarrhea and smug assumption that your opinion is superior – it is (literally) all a matter of taste and my friends and I will keep returning to this charming (if sometimes quirky) long established family run Sicilian oasis and revel in the atmosphere and warm welcome and attention offered by Maria and Sylvana and hope not to meet the self important pretentious folk who are too far up themselves to understand and appreciate the simple pleasures of life.

      • While your loyalty to your favourite restaurant is admirable, I find your position as it is currently written rather curious for the following two reasons:

        1. I’m not sure why you think I’m pretentious and smugly superior, but judging from your comment it appears to stem from the fact that my opinion differs from yours. Just because I have a different opinion from your own, and have no qualms about stating it, is not in of itself pretentious. If anything an angrily defensive comment that is so intolerant of dissenting opinion and resorts to personal insults is a far more obvious example of unwarranted and overweening superiority?

        2. My unfavourable opinion doesn’t and shouldn’t stop anyone who doesn’t share that opinion from continuing to enjoy the restaurant in question. Lashing out so publicly and angrily against that dissenting opinion would appear to be deeply insecure (at least it would to the casual observer).

  2. October 2013 – I took a guest to lunch and as usual I was welcomed by Maria and Sylvana and we were served by the lovely Alaria. The pulpo alla Siciliana starter I had was delicious (and didn’t look anything like your photo – maybe the chef has changed since your visit) and my guest enjoyed her king prawns. Our main courses were Grilled Sea Bream and Grilled Sea Bass and both were well cooked. The portions are good and we both left clean plates. Too full for sweets we finished with Strega and coffee. Our bill was £65 and this included a litre carafe of very drinkable house wine. My guest, who had never been to the restaurant before, thoroughly enjoyed the experience and has added Trattoria Mondello to her list of favoured restaurants.

  3. Pingback: Sardo review – classy Fitzrovia Sardinian | The Picky Glutton

  4. I was surprised to find this reviewed! Just a bit strange as I was in the recently when craving pasta and not liking the look of spaghetti house over the road. Yeah it is what it is, the food is pretty shoddy, but the waiter was a cool guy and I was treated well, with the owner coming out and shaking my hand which was a nice touch. The friendliness made up for the below par food

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