When you think about London food establishments associated with the Royal Family I’m sure, like me, you imagine luxurious, high-end Michelin-starred restaurants such as the Ritz or Celeste. However, it turns out that one of the late Princess Diana’s favourite foodie spots was, in fact, her local pizzeria on Gloucester Road. Da Mario, with its close proximity from Kensington Palace, was somewhere Diana would regularly take young William and Harry for lunch.
So on the 20th anniversary of the Princesses death, it only felt fitting to head to Da Mario in her memory. I’m sure she would have approved!
The pizzeria’s association with the Princess is not something they shy away from at Da Mario. As you walk up to the restaurant you first notice her name etched on the front steps, whilst inside is a large mural of Diana and Mario standing over a pizza, looking down at it lustfully.
The restaurant is also keen to point out that it has hosted a variety of other famous guests such as Madonna, Dustin Hoffman and Eric Clapton. Renee Zellweger would allegedly eat at Da Mario up to 5 times a week when she was living nearby and on a mission to gain 20lb to play her iconic character, Bridget Jones.
The celebrity wall of fame isn’t the only thing drawing people to Da Mario. The fantastic food, friendly staff, bright decor, lively atmosphere and reasonable prices give the central London restaurant the feel of an authentic Italian Pizzeria. Not somewhere you would usually associate with British Royalty and Hollywood, but appealing its own fun and quirky way.
Being a bigger group of 6 we were lucky enough to be seated in one of the downstairs ‘caves’. If you can, I’d definitely recommend requesting one as they provide a far more intimate space than the busier restaurant floor.
Open seven days a week, Da Mario serves pizzas, pasta, salads, fresh seafood and a selection of Italian starters and desserts.
For starters the 28 month aged Parma ham is a must try, having been flown all the way from Parma just for Da Mario. Some of our party had a plate to themselves, or alternatively, you can order to share alongside other cured meats, cheeses and bread.
I opted for the bruschetta all’Italiano – grilled ciabatta with fresh tomatoes, basil and goats cheese. A delicious option, especially when drizzled in balsamic vinegar, which despite its grand size did not leave me too full to enjoy the main course (as all too often happens with heavy Italian starters!).
As delicious as the rest of the menu may be, the pizzas have to be the best thing about Da Mario in my opinion. The perfectly sized (not too thin but not too doughy) and crispy bases can be topped with a wide variety of ingredients. Their iconic ‘Frutti di Mare’ seafood pizza is always a big hit, piled high with octopus, prawns, mussels and squid. My personal favourite has to be the ‘Pollo Corallo’, with roast chicken, sun blushed tomatoes, sweet pepper and fontina cheese.
Both of these can be washed down beautifully with a glass of the ‘Verdicchio dei Castilli de Jesi Classico – Vignamato’, a crisp Italian white wine which for just £19 a bottle is well worth ordering and compliments the food perfectly!
If there’s still room left after the first 2 courses, which unfortunately for us there wasn’t this time, then make sure you top it off with a large slice of tiramisu, which I’ve heard branded as the best of its kind in London!
Plus, when you’re done with your meal there’s no reason to leave. Da Mario has a small dance floor, a stacked bar and is open until 1am. So stick around, knock back a few limoncellos and enjoy the music!
Why you have to go:
Da Mario is a special little restaurant in South West London with an interesting history, fun atmosphere and delicious Italian food. The portions are generous in size but for a more than reasonable price. For a 3 course meal for 2 and a bottle of wine, you’ll be paying around £70 (£35pp). As well as being a lovely spot for couples, the group ‘caves’ and dance floor make the restaurant a great place for dinner and drinks with a group of friends.