Mr Jagger samples the delights of the Positano Room, 1966
More about La Trattoria Terrazza, the most fashionable restaurant in Swinging Sixties London. Yesterday I spent a snowy afternoon re-reading The Spaghetti Tree- and what an entertaining story it is! Franco Lagattolla and Mario Cassandro opened La Trattoria Terrazza in 1959. It very quickly became the fashionable haunt of artists, writers, models, film directors, actors, photographers and society hangers-on. In 1962, the London Daily Sketch ran a feature which noted that on one certain night, between 6.30 and midnight, the following people ate at La Terrazza: Ingrid Bergman, Leslie Caron, Danny Kaye, David Niven, Gregory Peck, Laurence Harvey, Sammy Davis Jnr, Michael Caine, Julie Christie, Terence Stamp, David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton. They forgot to include Ari Onnassis. This is astonishing when you discover just how small La Terrazza actually was at that time. Len Deighton, immortalised the restaurant in his spy novel, The Ipcress File: 'In London with a beautiful girl,' Deighton wrote in 1961, 'you must show her to Mario at La Terrazza.'
A quick glance at a 1967 menu shows that Franco and Mario were offering: fritto misto mare (fried octopus), rognoncini con funghi al barolo (sautéed calves kidneys/mushrooms/red wine sauce), salsiccie fresche con spinaci (Italian sausage on spinach, tossed in olive oil and garlic), and cervella di vitello alla monteverde (calves brain sautéed in special batter). Of course, nowadays, any decent Italian restaurant worth its salt might sell such dishes, but back then, after fourteen years of deprivation and rationing, this was exciting, new and different (rationing in Britain, unbelievably, only ended in 1954, a mere five years before La Terrazza opened).
And I forgot to mention that Franco and Mario introduced informality to the restaurant scene. Until then, fashionable restaurants, such as Le Caprice, were grand, carpeted institutions where a coat and tie were de rigeur, where waiters wore starched shirt fronts and funeral black tail-coats, where the dishes of Escoffier were served "silver service"- an elaborate ritual which involved waiters spooning out food from silver tureens at the table.
Instead, the charming waiters at Le Terrazza wore hooped Neapolitan fisherman's jerseys (I bet you anything they flirted away like crazy), the food was brought straight to the table, piping hot; staff and clientele were on first name terms, and any pretence at a dress code was abandoned- Tony Snowdon was admitted wearing his trademark polo-neck; from that day, they never looked back. In many ways this was the birth of the modern restaurant we have today.
And then in 1960, the cartoonist and designer, Enzo Apicella, re-designed the downstairs space to create the Positano Room: a cool, white, spare space; a modernist re-interpretation of the rustic. In came green-tiled floors, roughly plastered white walls, multi-coloured down-light spots over each table, arched ceilings, modernist rush-seated armchairs, and rustic lobster pots. Apicella went on to re-design many famous restaurants, including San Lorenzo and the Pizza Express chain.
Enzo Apicella in the Positano Room, 1960
Here's the recipe for La Terraza's most popular signature dish Petto di Pollo Sorpresa, taken from Franco Lagattolla's The Recipes That Made a Million. Based on Chicken Kiev, it has the addition of parmesan and parsley, giving it that certain Italian something:
"First, have your butcher cut and skin four tender breasts of young chicken,leaving the wing-tip bone. Carefully, without breaking the flesh, flatten them with a flat-sided mallet-cleaver, very, very thinly.
Place a 50g conical-shaped piece of well-chilled butter, which has been mixed with finely chopped garlic and parsley, a teaspoon of grated parmesan cheese, salt and milled black pepper, in the centre of each piece of chicken.
Roll them up tightly leaving the bone exposed rather like a handle. Seal in the butter by pressing the edges very firmly. Roll the chicken breasts in flour, dip into seasoned beaten egg and then carefully cover with breadcrumbs.
Deep fry the chicken breasts in hot oil until they are cooked and golden outside with the now melted savoury butter bursting to be released."