Carluccio's branches do vary - with their plastic tables and occasionally too harsh lighting they can be a bit reminiscent of greasy spoon cafs. But unlike greasy spoon cafs they sell yummy Italian delicatessen type foods in the shop at the front and also offer pretty delicious meals. Best of all, the menu offers you the chance to buy your very own vespa. I have been to Carluccio's a number of times and have come to the conclusion that by far their best dish - and one they do better than any other Italian I've tried - is pasta funghi. For £5.95 you get a large plate of wide strips of fresh pasta, with a good selection of buttery wild mushrooms and a sprinkling of parmesan. The rest of the food is OK too, but every time I try to be more adventurous I always miss the pasta. Wash it down with a bottle of prosecco (Italian take on cava, less fizzy and more delicious, £19.95). They also do OK panini for take away lunch, though at about £4 these are far less of a bargain. Service not included in the bill.
Carluccio's, 5-6 The Green, W5 5DA; Tel. 0208 566 4458; Tube: Ealing Broadway. And many other branches throughout London. www.carluccios.con
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