The cafés, galleries, wine bars and fromageries on the leafy lanes of Chiswick in the spring sunshine can sometimes make you feel like you’re on holiday on the continent. At The Italian Job (@TheItalianJobW4), a new, Italian craft beer gastropub, there is no question which country you’ve been transported to.
For many people, Italian beer means one or two lagers, and for long time this was the case. Italy’s craft beer revolution began in the mid-to-late 1990s, centred in the urbane and fashionable north of the country. In Italy, craft beer is now seen as a high-end alternative to wine, and priced as highly.
Rather than being burdened by tradition or seeking to reinvent their beer culture, Italian craft brewers are more like flavour-focused chefs, brewing each beer not to adhere to a specific style, but to fulfil their own artistic vision. As a result, these artisans have created a fully-formed epicurean culture of craft beer in an incredibly short space of time. Over 300 breweries now exist in a country once thought to be just another part of the ‘wine belt’.
The Italian Job captures this artistic and experimental spirit nicely. The pub is a joint venture between the founders of Italian brewery Birrificio del Ducato, Italian restaurateur Marco Pucciotti and Italian food retail specialist Giuseppe Verdoni, and presents a very polished menu of tapas-sized dishes as well as burgers and charcuterie platters alongside its twelve taps of all-Italian craft beer (including two handpulls for cask beer). The majority of the beers on offer are from del Ducato, but also include such leading lights as Birra del Borgo, Birrificio Toccalmatto and Brewfist.
The pub’s décor is simple and stylish, and the relatively small space it occupies makes it feel like a lively local pub. Dishes from the menu are simple, but vibrant and delicious. A plate of Reginelle – fried slices of pizza dough with fresh tomato sauce, Parmagiano Reggiano and basil – is just £6 but is elegant yet filling pub fare alongside a glass or two of the bready and crisp del Ducato Vlaemilia unfiltered lager. Other highlights include Toccalmatto’s Zona Cesarini, a ‘Pacific IPA’ using hops from the US, New Zealand and the gloriously lemony Sorachi Ace from Japan, and del Ducato’s Violent Femme, a light, hoppy and spritzy Belgian-style saison.
Many of these delicious beers are between 5-7%abv, and can cost upwards of £3 by the half-pint, which for Italian craft beer, is actually fairly cheap. Until recently, Italian craft beer has struggled to break into the UK because of its cost. In Italy, craft brewers think nothing of pricing their artisanal beers in line with bottles of well-made wine, and only in the past few years has the UK public begun to accept higher prices and smaller servings of stronger beers made with care (and costly ingredients). The Italian Job’s part ownership by the founders of del Ducato has helped make fantastic beer from Italy easier to afford, and if their first venture if anything to go by, beer enthusiasts in the UK will be thirsty for future collaborations.