Dining in Shoreditch: Interview with Bottega Prelibato Founder Gianfilippo Mattioli

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Since it opened its doors in 2008, rustic Italian eatery Bottega Prelibato, nestled down a cobbled street in the heart of Shoreditch, has become a veritable magnet for creative types. Serving up simple but mouth-watering food in a cosy, lively atmosphere, it has become one of the destination restaurants of the area. Shelley Marsden gets the lowdown from its charismatic Rome-born owner, Gianfilippo Mattioli, who most nights can be found there chatting to customers, his passion for the place as attractive as the authentic Italian dishes on offer

How did you get into the restaurant business?
When I moved to London from Rome I had a job lined up at the auction house, Bonhams as an art specialist. I’ve always loved art and everything connected to art. So after seven years, I decided to move on and change career altogether. I’d always wanted my own place to make sure my friends were always around me (!), so this was a way of doing that and making it profitable at the same time. It’s about people enjoying the good things in life.

So ‘Bottega’ is not purely about the food, then…
It’s about everything that’s beautiful in life. You can count beautiful things objectively, and these things include good food, nice wine, art and music. I’ve married them together at Bottega Prelibato. When we started out it was more of a delicatessen, but people enjoyed being in here with friends, enjoying the atmosphere so much that bit by bit it was the logical next step to become a restaurant.

Your place has become a big favourite with locals, hasn’t it?
I think it’s become a pretty important destination in Shoreditch, yes. When you consider that the area is full of creative and media types, Bottega fits into that completely. People might want a quick lunch but somewhere atmospheric, where they can forget about work for half an hour. One of its strengths is that it’s so tiny, and the evening in particular people really enjoy that cosy intimacy. It’s a bit of a landmark now in the Shoreditch triangle.

Was Shoreditch the obvious place to start out?
Not that obvious, when you consider the costs – it’s expensive to rent places here! But East London seven years ago was definitely the place to be and do business and it still is. I’d been living in West London; I knew the Italian restaurant scene there and wanted to start my own somewhere else, with a different style. I found what I was looking for in Shoreditch, and it’s given something back – it’s now one of those areas that’s comparable with Soho or any other busy area of London.

Which special dishes do you recommend?
The burrata with Parma ham as a platter to share between two to four people is a very entertaining dish to try. As are the fresh egg pasta dishes like ravioli or tortelli, not the dry pasta you might eat at home. They’re Italian, with a little creative twist. The two signature main courses which we love and always keep on the menu are beef tagliata, which is incredibly tasty and tender, and our sea bass. We don’t want to sell fish that isn’t sustainable, so our sea bass comes from a farm. We won’t use anything that damages our seas.

A little birdie told us you have plans to expand, is that right?
We’re working on a new venue as we speak in Wapping, a little further east by the Thames. It’s a lot bigger than this restaurant, in a beautiful building. We’ll have a restaurant, delicatessen and wine bar in one large open space. We want to create a comfortable, family friendly place where friends can meet up, discover new food and new wines. We’ll be producing a lot of things in-house, the idea being to emulate the Italian market place, like Campo de’ Fiori in Rome or Ballaro in Palermo, where the food is part of the architecture, full of colours and shapes . We’ll be using reclaimed wood and iron for all the tables and chairs – everything sustainable. If all goes to plan, we’ll be launching Bottega Wapping at the end of April.

Bottega Prelibato is at 45 Rivington St London, EC2A 3QB. Call 020 7739 4995 or visit www.bottegaprelibato.com .