Cattivo. It’s Italian for ‘bad’ — an ominous name for a bar-restaurant — or ‘naughty’, which is ominous in a much more promising way.

Sister venue to Martello Hall in Hackney, and Canova Hall — directly opposite Cattivo on Ferndale Road — we think we know roughly what to expect from this new opening. Gin still, check. Cocktail-centric drinks menu, check. Friendly buzz, check. High-ceilinged, low-lit charmer of a spot? Same same, so far.

But unlike Canova Hall, a fun but haphazard night out, the service at Cattivo is both relaxed and seamless. We throw a few lesser-spotted allergen questions at our waitress and they’re met with a wealth of preparedness and helpfulness. We get some honest and on-point advice when we’re torn between multiple cocktails.

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The roasted squash salad is a nice, functional small plate, but our stuffed courgette flower is a gorgeous thing — the goat’s cheese it’s filled with is made doubly rich with slicks of honey and warm, biscuity scatterings of pine nuts.

The beef meatballs are nailing it on generous, eating-for-hibernation-season portion size, and the spaghetti’s chewy and compulsive. But the meatballs themselves are underwhelming — on the dry side and with so much rosemary it’s something of a spike hazard in every forkful. The beef pappardelle’s the one we’d order again: deep, rich shreds of meat clinging to the pasta.   

Cocktails are a point of pride here, several of them made with Cattivo’s own small-batch gin. And they talk a big game about their off-menu abilities, making good on it with a perfect Manhattan that’s, yeah, pretty perfect. With a neon-lit bar downstairs, regular gig nights and a late licence at weekends, we can see this place luring you in with carb-loading and then locking you into a spiral of gin, cocktails and live music till the small hours.

Cattivo. Could get sort of naughty. Not half bad.  

Cattivo, 207 Ferndale Road, SW9 8BA.

from Londonist