What's the draw
As the latest in the revolving door of restaurant residencies to take over Carousel's Marylebone kitchen, Mazzo is here for a good time, not a long time. A hot-spot for Rome's in-the-know eaters, Francesca Barreca and Marco Baccanelli's bistro Mazzo shut its doors in January so the duo could take part in what they've dubbed the 'Mazzo Invaders' world tour. London is the last stop on the European leg of the trip and sees Barreca and Baccanelli team up with Carousel's brigade to bring their soulful take on Roman cooking to the snug communal tables. While the dishes are, for the most part, traditional Italian, Mazzo isn't afraid to throw its own shapes and inventive twists on the classics.
What to drink
We start with a playful cocktail called 'Fire! Call Nine Juan Juan!': a fiery serve of Ocho tequila, lime, tabasco, and Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur. If you're looking to give your palate a piquant wake-up call before you eat, there are worse ways to go about it. As for the wine list – which is well worth exploring – a 2017 Vigneto Carantina from Italian producer Monteforche went down a treat. The skin contact garganega had a moreish and musty mineral expression with a salty and umami corn tortilla finish. Our next glass of 2018 Cuvée des Galets was a bit more straightforward, but no less delightful. As a fruit forward, well rounded red from the Vignerons d'Estezargues cooperative, that plucky young wine sung of fresh cherries and the Southern Rhone.
What to eat
Mazzo's set menu is a whistle-stop tour through home-style Roman cooking. Panzanella and tomato soup with lovage oil is a remix of the classic stale bread salad from which it takes its name. Bright with basil and a tart acidity, the soup eases you into the meal like a languid descent into a body temperature bubble bath. A dish of deep-fried Trippa alla Romana arrives next in its own respective wash basin of tomato ragù and pecorino. The crispy tripe doesn't scream about its offal ancestry but brings it up often enough in conversation that you won't ever truly forget where it came from. Gnudi with crispy kale is next on the agenda; those soft parmesan and ricotta balls come served in a sizzling cast iron pan and prove it's hard to go wrong with crisp and lacy caramelised scraps of cheese.
Rome is known for its pasta and the sole pasta dish on Mazzo's menu – the chicken cacciatore ravioli – unsurprisingly shines. Two sunny squares of ravioli might not seem like much but, dressed in a slip of butter and pregnant with a stewed chicken mixture that's pâté-like in both its texture and flavour, it's a portion that more than satisfies. Squid with patron peppers are good, but not great. While the tentacles are cooked to perfection and play off the sweet peppers with aplomb, the larger cephalopod bod has a slight sneakers-on-the-basketball-court squeak to it. Its chive mayo team-mate, however, is an undoubted MVP. Goat's milk ice cream with chocolate crumble, seasonal fruit, celery water and olive oil is both savoury and sweet, ending the meal how it started by underlining Mazzo's confidence in contorting culinary clichés to give them a new lease of life.
Set menu costs £45; wine by the glass from £6. 71 Blandford Street, Marylebone, W1U 8AB; carousel-london.com