Vila Madalena, even early on a Saturday night, can feel like a warzone. The young soldiers, spilling out onto the pavement, brandishing their beers like weapons, sharpening their elbows as they home in on the night’s target: the girls. The lines of traffic, beeping angrily. If only you could parachute in and be whisked out again by the marines in a helicopter. But no, you have to fight through the cars and the drunks and the garçons hustling for business outside every bar. So the sight of Spadaccino – a traditional Italian family restaurant with a yard out front – in the midst of this chaos is like coming across the Red Cross in the midst of battle.
Paula and Roberto Lazzarini, the sibling chefs, know all about fighting: they were both champion fencers back in the day. But this is a restaurant that hangs its sabres on the wall – literally, there’s a pair in the dining room. It’s a place of refuge where the oddly comforting sight of three generations of the same family eating together is the rule, rather than the exception.
At Spadaccino, they know how to do traditional Italian food well. The prawn risotto is tasty and has half a dozen big meaty prawns in it. The penne with mushrooms is just right. The crème brûlée is deliciously rich, and green – yes, green – and has a perfectly crunchy crust on the top. The beer is cold. And the service is efficient without being obsequious. Fed, watered and ready for combat: Vila Madalena, here we come.