The name Zitto & Bevi is a play on the Italian saying zitto e mangia, which translates as ‘shut up and eat’. Zitto & Bevi however, is an instruction to ‘shut up and drink’ – not that any encouragement is really needed.
On entering we were led downstairs to an intimate and sparingly furnished basement, where we enjoyed a Negroni whilst browsing the menu. Although not as well known as a Campari or Aperol Spritz, the Negroni – which is made up of gin, vermouth and Campari – is becoming increasingly available in British bars and restaurants. It is part of the aperitivo culture which is slowly making its way into the UK, owing to the growing market of both tourists wanting to imitate the bel paese experience at home, and the large Italian community living here.
What may surprise some about the menu is the lack of pizza and sides dishes. However, this is an osteria, not a ristorante or pizzeria. This doesn’t mean that diners are missing out though. On the contrary, it identifies Zitto & Bevi as a more traditional (or original in the UK) addition to Bristol’s Italian food scene. Zitto & Bevi is unassuming and understated, encapsulating exactly what an osteria, or ‘tavern’, is when it’s at home. It’s a bit like sitting at your nonna’s kitchen table.
For starters, I went for the polenta with cod (£5), out of a selection of classic antipasti such as the mozzarella and tomato salad (£4) or the bruschetta with a choice of toppings (£5).
For mains, there are three varieties of lasagne: the classic ragù, Mediterranean vegetables, or salmon (£9). The other dishes also pay homage to simple Italian ingredients, such as the smoked scarmoza (smoked cheese) in the gateau di patate (‘potato cake’, £8). There is also a selection board of cured meats and cheeses (£12) for an even more relaxed finger-food meal. Although not the most exciting menu for vegans and vegetarians, I’m sure the approachable staff would be more than happy to accommodate if necessary.
I picked the amatriciana (£10), a tomato pasta staple in Italian households, from the specials board. Another specials board offering was the currently very fashionable, but simple, cheese and pepper pasta, cacio e pepe. The food, much like the setting, is personal, and above all authentic, made by Italian people for Italian palates (the pasta was unquestionably al-dente).
There is a carefully crafted wine list, red and white, sourced from family-run vineyards. I tried the modest Ulisse – Barbera DOC (£18), one of the more popular choices I was told, which was an ideal companion to the rich tomato base of the amatriciana. Other options start from £4 a glass, or £24 a bottle.
Informal and affordable, Zitto & Bevi offers quality classic Italian dining whilst fitting the independent and quirky Stokes Croft ethos. I look forward to returning to what is sure to become a Bristol classic.
3 Nine Tree Hill,
+44 117 329 7645
Photo by Benjamin Rowe