Underneath Italia Uno café on Charlotte Street, near to the BT tower, there was a cellar filled with televisions of different sizes, where Italians came to watch football. It may still go on – I no longer have an insider friend to take me there, nor do I really watch football, but that wasn’t ever really the point. For £6 Felice (meaning “happy”) the ever-present owner made a large sandwich from ciabatta, gave you a cold beer, and you would descend into a packed-to-bursting room of (mostly male) Italians, chain smoking (pre-ban days) and feverishly anticipating the game. Goals and referee injustices were greeted with lots of swearing. It felt pretty special. Felice still speaks to me in Italian when I visit, though the few lessons my Neapolitan friend Dominico gave me eight years ago when we lived next door in a student residence, have faded. I can now just about manage to ask for my lunch.
Previously I went for the profiteroles and espresso after consuming whatever my inexperienced student cooking had produced for savoury. Now I order “melanzane alla parmigiana”, which is slices of cooked aubergine swimming in almost lethal quantities of melted cheese with tomato sauce, with extra grated parmesan on top and a basket of warmed bread with a bit of herby vinaigrette daubed on.
The interior is dingy at best; gloomy lighting, Italian TV always playing, heaps of newspapers on tables, and faded posters of footballers and Italian paraphernalia cover some of the walls, but the lunch is always pure luxury.
91 Charlotte St., London, W1T 4PX
020 7637 5326