Many chefs have a lifelong dream to open their own restaurant but it takes a brave one to actually go ahead and do it - especially in the current tough economic times facing the food industry.
But chef Piero Taris and his wife Rosa, have taken the plunge with Sapori Sardi, a family owned and run Sardinian deli-restaurant which opened its doors to diners last month on the Putney Bridge end of bustling Fulham Road.
From the road you could almost miss the unprepossessing frontage which houses Sapori Sardi but, once inside you are sure of good honest authentic dishes with no frills but plenty of fresh flavours. The welcome is warm and the service first class from the star of the show waiter Carlos.
He clearly loves his job and the customers he serves and is bound to make your evening one to remember. The best way to describe Carlos (who hails from Porto in Portugal) is that he is enthusiastic, energetic and exuberant and I guarantee by the end of the evening you will all be on first name terms. He will also be your 'new best friend' and have introduced you to his favourite word 'fantastico'.
After our warm welcome I was left rather surprised when Carlos recommended a bottle of Inti Reserve Malbec 2004 from Argentina, rather than an Italian wine, in glowing terms saying it was currently a favourite with customers – but he was spot on as it delivered an enjoyable nose of smooth rich berries and came in at a reasonable £16.95.
But back to Piero and his food. He has been cooking since he was 11 and first started working in a kitchen at 16. He has taught Italian cuisine to chefs at some of the world's finest restaurants and Sapori Sardi is the fulfilment of a lifelong dream to own his own restaurant and bring the true Sardinian experience to local people.
I started with the mussel stew in tomato sauce with white white and chilli and garlic bruchett (£6.95). The bowl of fresh, steaming juicy mussels was generous and the beautifully seasoned smoky sauce with a real kick to it was divine – mopping it up with the crispy bread was a joy.
'Fantastico' said Carlos when my partner Fiona ordered the 'mixed seafood salad at its best' (as described on the menu). Getting caught up in the lingo she declared the combination of squid, octopus, prawns and mussels with a subtle lemon and oil dressing 'fantastico' - it was a simple salad at its best.
For mains I was tempted by several of the enticing authentic Sardinian pasta dishes on the menu but went for the pan roasted baby lamb cutlets with rosemary and garlic (£16.50).
After my first mouthful of the succulent, juicy slightly pink lamb, as ordered, I knew I was going to enjoy this plate of food.
I loved its simplicity and fresh flavours boosted by perfectly cooked fresh vegetables and fragrant sprigs of rosemary and peppery rocket leaves. I was so tempted to pick up the lamb bones and chew every last morsel off them – I didn't but wish I had not been too embarrassed to do so.
Fiona was also pleased with her chicken supreme filled with pecorino cheese, pancetta and mixed herbs with garlic, rosemary and white wine sauce (£14.50). The chicken was moist and the filling full of flavour and well seasoned and the dish also came with a mixture of fresh vegetables – although she declared the rosemary was a touch overpowering.
I finished off with a Tartufo Bianco Affogato (£4.95) – white truffle chocolate with a shot of espresso coffee which hit the spot, as did the complimentary glass of limoncello we were served afterwards.
Sapori Sardi is an intimate, cosy little restaurant with its simple décor of attractive wooden furniture with fresh flowers and candles on each table.
Piero said: “I wanted to bring the true Sardinian experience to Londoners for a long time and nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing the pleasure that real Sardinian dishes bring.”
There is no doubt that Piero delivers what he promises twith his cooking and his dream restaurant in the words of the unforgettable Carlos should become 'fantastico' with the locals.