Form doesn't quite meet function at Fucina, the new pizzeria and grill in Marylebone, says Sophie McIntyre, but it's definitely worth a try
Upon entering Fucina, your eyes are led via the expanse of packed tables up to the incredible bulbous brickwork ceiling. It makes you feel as if you are standing under a Tate Britain installation, or maybe you’re inside a giant pizza oven. In reality, this is Kurt Zdesar’s new Marylebone Italian, Fucina.
The buzzing space is separated from the street by immense, enveloping green glass and steel screens – plain glass windows clearly wouldn’t cut it for this adventurous scheme.
Seated right up against the chequered window slats, we peruse the extensive menu: Taglieri platters of cured meats and Italian cheeses designed to pick at over a bottle of wine, and crostini and small plates are an excellent warm up for a grander bout of celebratory feasting.
We try the crab salad with baby spinach, cress and chicory, Burrata and frito diverso di pesce – the salad and burrata were perfectly fresh and light and the pesce satisfyingly crunchy. And, feeling rather curious, we also tried the ‘Straciatella Mazzara’ – a slightly sloppy, Burrata based, dish with with prawn and black truffle, and lovely spread on chunks of bread.
Next it’s time for the rich and dense wild rabbit ragu (I would happily have a plate of that any night of the week) and a Classica pizza, topped with richly-aged parma ham and parmesan.
The carefully sourced rustic Italian produce topping the pizza took me right back to a Tuscan hillside picnic with an ex-boyfriend, the base was disappointingly soggy, however, which rather ruined the effect.
We finished with ‘Stefano’s Cheesecake’, which was covered in a prune and rum syrup, for which I would very much like the recipe.
The restaurant’s founder, Zdesar, is the man behind the legendary Nobu restaurants, the dim sum chain Ping Pong, as well as Chotto Matte and Mayfair’s Black Roe. And the restaurateur’s honed-eye is evident in the restaurant’s adventurous design and the lengthy menu.
He spent months scouring Italy for interesting, mainly organic, food – and the cured meats, cheeses and ‘forest picked’ mushrooms are all of excellent quality. The hand made pasta is rolled out just before service; Indeed, the stone baked pizza is baked in a traditional wood fired oven. Downstairs, the restaurant features a wood-fired pit for roasting suckling pig, lamb and boar as well as large joints of meat, depending on the season. This is the heart of the operation: the fucina (after all, fucina is Italian for forge or kitchen fire).
The man who designed the restaurant's dramatic interior, is Andy Martin – who also worked with Zdesar on Chotto Matte.
The brief given to Martin revolved around honesty, tradition and the organic. The softly sculptured ceiling is womb-like. And thoughts of all things natural are only compounded when you catch a glimpse of the log-like legs of the tables. The materials used by Martin reflect the menu too.
I would head to Fucina for the design alone; and the pizza probably deserves another chance. Perhaps the fucina wasn’t firing on all cylinders the night we visited. A long brunch or lunch (nothing discreet, mind you as the tables are close together) spent grazing the carefully sourced produce and sampling the extensive Italian wine list would, however, be a delightful way to fritter away an afternoon.