In Review

Fucina: Italian classics with the space to shine

Marylebone's latest opening works wonders with well-sourced organic ingredients

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Italian cooking, perhaps the world's most widely used and abused, can trip up even the most creative chef. In fact, it's the creative ones who fall flat on their faces, toying with classics deemed too familiar to leave unmolested, yet finding them resistant to faddish reinvention. No one needs a deconstructed spag bol.

Thankfully, Stefano Stecca knows when to stop inventing. As head chef at Fucina, a new arrival in Marylebone, he has built a menu that's both simple and intriguing.

Simple in that each dish consists of just a few ingredients, organic and sourced from Italy, and intriguing in how it combines them. Alongside things you might expect to see, like spinach and ricotta tortellini in walnut sauce, are things you definitely don't, like pizza topped with roast pork, grilled white peach and white truffle crema.

The pricing is just as eclectic. Confine yourself to a couple of crostini, some pasta or pizza and one of many wines available by the glass and you'll get out for less than £30 a head. Indulge yourself and you might pay three times more.

And while the menu does not enforce decadence, it certainly ushers you in its general direction. A vast T-bone steak, weighing in at two pounds and cooked on the wood-fuelled firepit that gives the restaurant its name, is deeply, satisfyingly smokey. Share it between two or three and it works hard for its £80 price tag.

Smaller, more economical dishes are prepared with no less care. A portion of paccheri cinghaile, yours for £14.50, combines fresh hand-rolled pasta with an earthy, succulent wild boar ragu. Other treats in the under-£15 bracket include maiale nero pork shoulder and pheasant with polenta and chestnuts.

The menu will change with the seasons, but it wears autumn well. As does the restaurant itself: the ground-floor is secluded from the street by an amber and bottle-green glass screen, and topped by a terracotta ceiling which dips and curves like the roof of a Roman oven.

The real ovens are downstairs, at the end of a staircase that winds down through the wine cellar and beyond a small private dining room, in which a single long table is screened from the heat and smoke of the firepit by a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. Also downstairs, and equally dramatic, are the bathrooms. Clad in polished black marble, they're as dark and silent as the obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's actually quite hard to find the door handle.

But if a restaurateur feels the urge for self-expression, far better that he or she leaves the food well alone and lets rip, instead, in the toilets.

Fucina, 26 Paddington Street, London W1

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