New plant based Italian restaurant Pianta opens in Chiswick

Image above: Pianta restaurant CGI, Rory Cashin Design

Chiswick is getting a new concept in restaurants – Plant based Italian food. “Not vegetarian” says Stefano Fraquelli, owner of Pianta, opening shortly on Turnham Green Terrace.

“We won’t be using only vegetarian recipes. We want to encourage meat eaters to come here, but just eat more vegetables. Personally I’m a meat eater who wants to eat less meat and I know many dishes from my culture which use fresh vegetables, so we’ll be serving authentic Southern Italian food using organic vegetables”.

Stefano knows a thing or two about marketing restaurant ‘concepts’. His father started Spaghetti House with a partner in the 1950s. Now we are entirely used to pizza restaurants and steak houses, but back then Italian restaurateurs tended to open restaurants with their name over the door. Even Berni Inns, which brought prawn cocktails and steak and chips to the masses, were called after the brothers Berni. A two-word description of what food you might expect to eat there was a novel idea.

As a marketing concept it worked a treat. From the original Spaghetti House in Googe Street, at its height there were 17 restaurants in the chain.

Stefano grew up in the restaurant business, but unlike his father, who worked in restaurants from the age of 11, Stefano studied Business Administration. His father had a stroke when he was 19, so when he finished university in Bath, he went straight into the family business with his uncle.

“I had to unlearn everything I’d learned” he told me. “We had 400 employees, none of whom had stayed in school beyond the age of 16. They didn’t know what I was talking about”.

His uncle set him a six month schedule to learn every aspect of the business from the pot wash to front of house. Among the restaurants they ran were the Pescatori in Charlotte St, La Bussola in St Martin’s Lane and Cacciatore in Dover Street.

They also had their own central commissary where they did their own butchery and roasted their own coffee. It enabled Stefano to try out a new venture of his own – selling pre-packaged fresh pasta meals to Waitrose in the1980s; another new concept in food retailing.

Stefano eventually split the business with his uncle and went out on his own, opening a group of four Getti restaurants in the West End, in Wardour Street, Jermyn Street, Haymarket and Marylebone High Street and one in Istanbul (his wife was Turkish).

Images above: Pianta interior; cuisine

Why has he decided to open a restaurant in Chiswick? Though we may not like to think of ourselves as being in the sticks, we are relatively suburban for a man who has barely set foot out of the congestion zone.

The answer is of course, the pandemic. The impact of Covid on restaurant businesses in central London has been dire.

“It was sad having to close Zia Teresa, opposite Harrods. after 65 years”.

Stefano also wants to return to running a business where he is able to build up customer loyalty, rather than being reliant on the transient tourist trade. Lucky us. We get the benefit of several generations of restaurant experience and the recipes from Stefano’s mother Rosa, from Sicily, and his late father Lorenzo from lake Como.

Stefano has already transformed the premises, which when it was Charlotte’s Bistro was rather like entering a dark cave. The staircase up from the bar now leads to a glass roofed dining area which opens up the space beautifully.

Now it’s over to chef Pasquale Amico, whose experience of plant based Italian food includes having run two vegetarian restaurants of his own.

Examples of what to expect on the menu:

Arancini di riso, piselli, formaggio e salsa di pomodoro – Rice balls filled with peas and kinara cheese, spicy tomato dip

Burrata, nocciole e rape rosse – Burrata, toasted hazelnut and red beetroot purée

Ravioli menta e patate – Homemade ravioli filled with potato and mint

Malanzane alla Milanese – Breaded aubergine, tomato, peppers and olive salsa

Crocchetta di rape rosse, patate e funghi – Pan fried beetroot, wild muchrooms and potato cake with lentil ragout

Images above: Pianta cuisine

The restaurant’s will be open from Saturday 2 October. Opening hours Tuesday – Saturday, evenings only, from 5.00 – 10.30 pm and Sundays from 12.00 – 7.00 pm. Between 2 and 9 October Pianta is offering a 50% discount on food during its ‘soft’ opening, with its ‘official’ opening on Sunday 10 October.

Pianta restaurant
6 Turnham Green Terrace,
Chiswick W4 1QP

Tel:  0208 994 9777

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See also: Autumn at Neptune 

See also: Autumn at Chiswick House

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