Il Calcio, Mayfair

This pasta will change your life

The Vibe

There was once a very posh Italian joint in New York that stole my heart. I was taken by friends who speed-lunched in Nobo and caught pre-clubbing bites at Pétrus so I knew the place would be special.  It was called Nello’s – a chic and traditional Italian restaurant in a glitzy part of town with the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had. Cross the Atlantic to Il Calcio and the team behind Nello’s has given us one more reason to date and to date well, with a little old school finesse. Like Nello’s, it’s in a fancy area (Mayfair) and lives up to traditional Italian dining norms with an exceptionally long menu, white tablecloths, red wine bottles to decorate as well as drink and an excellent lighting scheme.

Food is brought to your table for you to marvel at before it is portioned out with much the same pomp as you’d get with a hefty drinks order in a London club (sparklers and scantily hostesses were sorely missed). It may have only opened in November but it looks like a family institution warm and cosy, full of diners speaking in hushed tones and leaning over tables to hold hands, excellent wine in giant glasses, simple and well executed food, and groups of affluent older gentlemen hosting dinners for good friends. Add to this food that invites those all too rare comfortable silences (pure appreciation) and you have a pretty special set up for someone you maybe/sort of/definitely love just a little bit.

The Order

It’s an intimidating list and whilst it is likely that most things are good, do that smooth old move of asking the waiter to order for you. Give them vague instructions (a pasta to start, then a white fish, a red meat, and a vegetable) but acquiesce to whatever they suggest. Saying that, if they don’t even mention the mushroom and truffle spaghetti then an intervention is definitely required. It comes served in a gigantic hollowed out parmesan block, the hot pasta mingling with the melting cheese as it is being served- best bloody thing ever. Booze-wise, no need to go overboard. Match your wines with the food, so start with white and move on to red. It may be a laid back environment but it’s a classy joint too and, partly because of the hushed tones, you’ll need to avoid being a loud drunk.

The Game

Take someone who loves Italian food and is excited (not scared) of a pasta and meat dominated meal where the only vegetable on the table has been drowned in butter and olive oil.  It’s for someone you love drinking red wine with, enjoy long and deep conversations with and who, whether on a first or fifth date, you suspected for some time you would like to have a relationship with. Meet at Bond Street tube station on a Friday and head straight to the restaurant. Gentlemen, offer the banquette seat to your date and kick off the conversation asking about their week. Comfortable, as opposed to controversial, talk is permitted in this environment – it seems like the sort of place a glamorous married couple might choose to catch up on a week that involved travelling a lot for work. Conversation might turn to other good meals enjoyed around the world, places your family return to each year, that sort of nonsense. Then, towards the end of the meal, grab for a hand across the table, drop some traditional lines (I’m so glad you could make it tonight) and express a desire to kiss them. Get your coats and when saying goodbye to the host, casually enquire about another table for two in a fortnight. Smooth.

The Faults

The outside façade doesn’t quite betray the good vibes within.

Sex Factor

4. This may be traditional grown-up dating but it’s quite hard to say goodbye to your date at the end.


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