A phrase I have heard more times than I care to remember when it comes to lunchtime is: "Where's a good Italian?” At first this may seem like a simple question, but after having sampled a multitude of restaurants claiming to be 'Authentically Italian', one often finds oneself with varying degrees of dissatisfaction. Maybe this is because the phrase 'Italian Food' is instantly synonymous with something unquestionably delicious, fragrant with garlic and painstakingly prepared by people who really understand the nature of their ingredients. However more often than not, what find is some bland tomato sauce and cold garlic bread.
But if you find yourself in Merton and asking that fateful question, I would suggest you head directly for Gino’s. Here in this relatively unsung location you will find exactly the taste you are looking for with rich sauces, great prices and perfect pizzas that would easily rival even upscale central London eateries.
We began our meal with a serving of garlic bread that set the tone for what was to come. Peaking with flavour and elastic freshness it was devoured in less than five minutes despite the healthy serving size. Not able to choose less than two things from the menu, my lunch-guest and I opted next to share both a pizza and Bolognese. The pizza dough was remarkably light and crispy and did not have that diet-challenging density found at many pizzerias. The Bolognese was equally as delicious and the sauce actually looked like it had been left to simmer in the traditional way, enhancing the flavour of the meat and rendering me incapable of leaving even a strand remaining. At less than £10 for garlic bread, two main meals and two drinks I can't imagine anywhere else I would go for lunch if I worked in this area.
At Gino's nothing ever touches a microwave and the owner is proud and vocal about this fact. From the moment we sat down we felt that we were part of a larger culinary experience and were treated - like all the guests at the restaurant, as if we were family. Recently the Mayors of all the local boroughs ate together here and I can safely say that this was an authentic and appropriate endorsement of Merton's best kept secret in Italian dining.