I think Anima E Cuore is my favorite local restaurant despite three facts:
- Still not really sure how to pronounce it (cure-ay? kwar-ee?).
- It’s incredibly hard to make reservations.
- I’m never entirely 100% sure what’s on the menu.
But this Italian place has won me over despite all that. The food is excellent, the staff are totally charming, and the BYOB policy (no alcohol served at all) makes it easier to drink well on a reasonable budget. Also, the house-made gelato’s fantastic. I especially love the silky lemon (sorbet) and baci perugina (gelato) flavors.
Despite the very long wait to get a reservation (yesterday I heard them inform someone they are booked through July), there’s nothing fancy or sparkly about the place. Decoration is spare – it looks like the restaurant could have been a shoe store or pawn shop earlier in the day, with some tables quickly moved in at 6 p.m.
So you have to be there simply for the food, but the food is worth it. A basic menu of starters and mains is listed on a chalkboard brought tableside; the chef comes out to explain each dish, which can be a bit of an overwhelming experience because he speaks quickly, with an accent. However, I have a friend with a lot of food restrictions because of an allergy, and he took the time to go item-by-item with her to discuss ingredients and ultimately concocted something that suited her requirements.
The house-made pastas are all great, with many options ranging from black spaghetti with seafood to papardelle with lamb. My current favorite dish on the menu is a pasta starter (most are mains) of strangolapreti (“strangled priests.”)
This is a divinely tender gnocchi made of bread crumbs rather than potato or flour, then rolled in pesto. On our last two visits, I’ve gone for the meat mains; I had very nice lamb chops once, but I think last night’s beef filet with split cherries, served on a pistachio mash, was extraordinary. Sardines in saor and the rosemary baba served with burrata were also winners in the starter department.
During the day, they sell gelato out of the front of the restaurant. I live nearby, so during gelato serving times, I’ve dropped in to ask about reservations, which has served me well. I don’t think they have email and it’s hard to get through on the phone.
Here’s a longer review, with pics, from the local rag: http://www.kentishtowner.co.uk/2014/10/03/review-anima-e-cuore/