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At last - spaghetti without the side order of baloney

Published 1 July 2012
News Review
988th article

Michael with Vanessa Perry and Piero Amodio at Timo (Julian Whatley)

If you want a good restaurant, don't come within a mile of my house. I live in restaurant hell, a wasteland of endless places selling meals, all of which are appalling. I moved to my present residence in 1946. It was barren of good food then and it is now. It's been consistent for some 66 years.

There is the Belvedere, which is . . . well, it's there. And Sticky Fingers, if you like that sort of thing, dishes up that sort of thing. Otherwise it ranges from the ludicrously pretentious Kitchen W8 to Nando's. Per-lease, get the private jet ready.

There is one pleasant, simple, rather good local Italian in Kensington High Street called Timo. It's owned and run with great affection by Piero Amodio, from Amalfi. Before opening Timo seven years ago Piero had the concession for all six restaurants in Habitat's stores.

Piero's mother's name is Giovanna and his father's is Raffaele. No other writer would offer gems of information like that. If you think it's irrelevant, why did the registrar at the Chelsea register office ask me my father's name, my mother's name and what profession my father pursued? What could that possibly have to do with my getting married? Answers on a postcard, please.

I recently went to Timo for lunch with my ex-girlfriend Vanessa Perry, a lovely lady who danced in the chorus of 42nd Street with Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Vanessa once received the following handwritten missive, which she framed: "You are a dear, kind and beautiful angel who has come into the strange precincts of one M Winner. Should you experience a single moment of distress, call out my name softly on the warm, summery winds and I'll be yours till the trumpets drown oblivion announce [sic] our journey to the stars - M Brando."

My dear friend Mr B was a man of many parts. All good. Years later Vanessa named her first son after him.

"Excuse me, Michael," I hear you say. "You meander on like some demented idiot. Should you not mention what you ate at Timo?" I was getting round to that. I have to settle in. Let the mood take me.

All the food at Timo is lovingly prepared and served in a pleasant, simple room. I started with tomato, mozzarella and avocado. Vanessa had butternut squash, asparagus and tomato.

The spaghetti carbonara is superb, the veal escalope marsala a delight, the pannacotta dessert exemplary. It almost makes up for the mediocrity being served in the restaurants all around it.

Piero is not one of those theatrical, over-the-top, "I'm Italian, so I must be hearty and make jokes with hand gestures" Italians like Valerio Calzolari at Scalini. Nor does he, as they do at Scaliniand many other places, bung the tables so close together that the noise is deafening and, as much as you can hear anything, you can hear those dining next to you.

Timo is quiet, dignified and beautifully run. Even I feel at ease and docile when I enter. It's either Piero's influence or he takes the precaution of putting Valium in my mineral water. Either way, it works.

  • Last week I spoke of the wit of my friend John Gielgud. This led me to a marvellous remark from another great actor, Robert Morley. Robert was in a play with an actress who was quite a big stage and movie star. During a rehearsal, she was on stage. Robert stood watching beside the impresario Michael Codron. The actress spoke in a unique way.

    "She's got a funny voice, hasn’t she?" commented Codron.

    "If you'd had in your mouth what she's had in hers, you'd have a funny voice too," said Morley.

  • From Joanna Kanska in London.

    Hymie and his three brothers became very successful. They wanted to send a 95th birthday gift to their mother, who lived in Florida.

    Milton said: "I had a big house built for Mamma."

    Marvin said: "And I had a large cinema built in the house."

    Maurice said: "I had my Mercedes dealer deliver an SL 600 to Mamma's door."

    Hymie said: "You know Mamma loved to read the Bible but now she can't see well enough to do that? I came across a rabbi who had a parrot that could recite the entire Bible. You name a chapter and verse and the parrot would recite it. I had to give £30,000 to the synagogue but it was worth it."

    Their mother got the gifts and sent out thank-you notes.

    "Milton, the house you built is so huge I only live in one room. But I have to clean the whole house. Thanks anyway."

    "Maurice, I'm too old to travel and all my groceries are delivered. So I'll never use the Mercedes, but thank you for the gesture."

    "Marvin, you gave me an expensive theatre with Dolby sound that holds 50 people. But all my friends are dead, I've lost my hearing and I'm nearly blind, so I'll never use it. Thank you for the thought anyway."

    "Dearest Hymie, you were the only son to give a little thought to your gift. The chicken was delicious. Thank you so much."

    Michael's missives

    Your first paragraph last week was flawed. You said you knew nobody who had lived in Golders Green. I worked for you and have pleasant recollections of our time together. I spent many years in Golders Green before leaving to enter a doomed marriage. To quote a master lyricist: "I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now."
    Armand Rosen, London

    I used to find you completely obnoxious. You now seem to be thinner, less arrogant and more amusing. Weight loss suits you.
    Andrew Davidson, Buckinghamshire

    I believe a new Olympic event has been added that you and Geraldine should consider entering: synchronised dining. A gold medal is a certainty. If Geraldine isn't keen, you could partner Tom Daley, who can dine from 10 metres. Or perhaps Geraldine might prefer to go for gold with Tom.
    Tim Burton, Berkshire

    I emailed you a while back asking you to try the UK's greatest fish and chip shop, Sam's on Golders Green Road. I now read you went to Golders but failed to visit Sam's. I make regular excursions from south Wales, buy fish and chips from Sam's, eat them in the street and then catch the next train home.
    Andy Thompson, South Glamorgan