Il Bianco, Blackwall
Recently becoming an Auntie again thanks to this little one meant I found myself in East London, which is actually my old stomping ground. To be precise, I was in Blackwall which is a relatively new little area (previously some industrial wasteland, now block upon block of high rises) about 5 minutes from Canary Wharf. I lived near here for six years and sometime during that period Il Bianco popped up; I subsequently ate there about twice a week, so I'm pretty familiar with this one. Aside from the soulless corporate chainy world of Canary Wharf there is not much dining choice around this part of E14, although the lovely riverside pub The Gun is always a good choice, so you can hardly blame me for being such a frequent visitor.
Despite not having visited for at least a year, the staff at Il Bianco recognised us straight away and were utterly charming to Leo who was hot, tired, cranky and being a general monkey. The waiters didn't seem to have changed at all and we have always found them to be lovely (unlike these Square Meal reviewers with several bees in their bonnets), which makes up for the fact that the ambience is always a little odd - eating authentic Italian food in a new build glass box with corporate style tables and chairs is always going to be a bit disconcerting though.
I was excited to see some specials on the board that we hadn't tried before and we promptly ordered the burrata with proscuitto (£12 ish). Burrata is my current obsession and I was keen to see if it was as great as L'Antica's offering. It arrived with a basil oil dressing and I found it to be definitely equal to L'Antica's. Rich thought it pricey for a starter but Il Bianco isn't the cheapest local Italian in the world and burrata is not cheap; I bought some at Borough Market a while ago and that was £7 or so alone so evidently this fancy creamy mozarella comes with a bit of a price tag but I think it's worth it.
For old times sake I ordered my favourite dish, spaghetti alla vongole, which incidentally would also be my death row 'primi' should I be allowed to respect my slightly dubious Italian heritage and order the full five courses. My friend Felicity tells me that death row meals are no longer a thing though, so I'll be getting all the vongole in whilst I still can. Having eaten this before, I ordered mine with extra garlic as I'm a garlic fiend. Its pretty much a traditional spaghetti alla vongole although their use of dried chillis seems sporadic, but I don't mind it with or without as Il Bianco are always happy to provide their fiery chilli 'oil' for pizzas, which is more like a ramekin of crushed dried chillis with a bit of oil in - its really good and I dollop it on most things there.
Rich ordered one of the pizzas which are always brilliant and almost on a par with the best Neapolitan pizzas in town in terms of their bases, but some of their more British/American toppings can let them down (the Angelo with ham and pineapple, I am looking at you). The Parma that Rich ordered is a winner though, with lovely proscuitto ham, buffalo mozzarella, rocket and artichokes. I can also recommend the Fiorentina and the Rustica and they will happily make you half and half if you can't decide. If you don't fancy pizza then my sister swears by the steak tagliata and eats it on a weekly basis, the crab ravioli which is often on the specials board is also good and the chargrilled squid is a safe choice too but rather weirdly comes with roast potatoes so swap them for something more appropriate!
We had a bottle of Valpolicella to wash it all down and the bill came in at just under £70. Usually they bring you some free limoncello too.