It seems very odd reviewing a restaurant that is only 5 or 6 strides away from the front entrance of my apartment block. This smashing little Italian restaurant opened in June, two years ago now and the owners have spent a lot of time, money and energy into making it very appealing.
The Papryczka (pepper) restaurant is situated on ul. Zawiszy in Wola, a very old district of Warsaw that is about 25 minutes away from the centre by tram. Of course I don't have to travel very far as it is on the street where I live. This is great for me as I am quite lazy in the winter and don't like to venture too far in snow, ice and howling winds from Siberia.
The restaurant itself sits in a parade of shops including a top class bakery, cake-shop and travel agents. The apartment block above the parade is very stylish and trendy and houses a lot of young business people and university students. During the summer months the restaurant was packed out every night inside and outside so the owners have chosen a good location.
Before we step inside the Papryczka, let's have a look at the outside. Such beauty has been created in such a small area just by planting a few conifers, placing wicker chairs and pine tables and on each table and window sills a vast amount of candles; all different shapes, sizes and colours. Candles are carried through to the interior, some really large and hidden in wrought iron lanterns. The walls of the restaurant have been painted a shade that looks like a faded terracotta blended with yellow ochre. I think it is meant to give the room a Tuscan look. Along the back wall several large painted canvasses illustrate the houses and architecture of the various regions of Italy.
There are about 7 or 8 dark pine tables spread throughout the restaurant with a raised area tucked away at the back consisting of two more tables and chairs. Dotted around are large potted plants like palms and ornamental fig trees. There is a small semi-circular bar which serves a selection of beers, soft drinks and tea and coffee. When we first visited this restaurant we were unable to order wine due to the restaurant obtaining a license but I see this has changed now and wine is served by the bottke or by the glass. I wouldn't say Warsaw is the best place to drink wine especially in a restaurant as it is always overpriced and not the best quality. My advice is to stick with beer - you can't go wrong. Cheap and tasty.
The atmosphere inside depends whether it is summer or winter. When we went along in August we sat inside because although the outside area is lovely, people smoke here and it puts me off. It was a weekday and early evening; there was a nice summery feel to the restaurant - lots of chatter and people seemed happy.
In the winter it is a little different - for example: one night last week we had been busy all day and were starving so rather than start from scratch and cook an evening meal we went down the street and sat inside the Papryczka with a beer, skimmed the menu and ordered a three course meal. That particular evening we sat in the raised area looking out on to the street across and I think there were only two more couples in the restaurant so the atmosphere was much calmer than in the summer. What I did notice was a new, very large flat screen TV adorning the left hand side wall. Not sure I agree with this - it spoils the décor and who wants to listen to the TV when they are out for a romantic dinner for two? Definitely not me or my husband.
The menu card isn't a great work of art - a piece of strong glossy card folded into three. Languages written are Polish and Italian but if you are familiar with Italian restaurants you will find the dishes on the menu easy to work out. Antipasta, anti pasta caldi, soup, salads, main pasta dishes, main meat and fish dishes, extras like chips, potatoes, vegetables etc., pizzas, desserts and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are all listed on the menu card and outside the front entrance there is also a free standing blackboard with a selection of dishes of the day - most of these are in the 20 -25zloty range per meal (£4 to £5).
The Papryczka advertises itself as a pizza & pasta restaurant. I have never tried a pizza here as having scrutinised several pizzas passing by on their way to other customers I haven't liked the look of them. They seem too thin and not enough topping. So I generally choose pasta.
Last week I decided to skip the mozzarella and tomato salad which I have tried before and was delicious I might add, and chose formaggi e affetati misti Italiani. Basically, this is a very large plate of mixed sliced Italian cheeses and cold meats. The assortment of slices consisted of different salamis, air-dried ham (prosciutto), white ham (similar to English boiled ham), pecorino and ricotta cheese arranged in circles on a large white contemporary style plate, decorated with fresh, crispy, tangy salad leaves and served with a basket of fresh sliced bread. This was all very tasty especially the straw white pecorino cheese; a sharp tasting sheep's cheese from Sardinia. I enjoyed the sliced cold meats too but overall they were very salty and I needed another pint of beer when I had finished eating.
My husband had been feeling the cold that evening, fancied something warm and wholesome so he went with the cream of broccoli soup which looked healthy and sumptuous and he said that's exactly what it was. So full marks all round for the starters.
There are 16 pasta dishes on the menu so it took me a while to decide which one to go with. At home I usually cook penne, spaghetti or tagliatelle so I fancied something different. I have always liked the shape of tortelli and the way the pasta is twisted into a rounded form to look like a small hat. In the end I chose Tortelli di ricotta e spinaci al salmone. The plate upon which my pasta was served was giant sized. I know it's stylish to use these large white plates in restaurants but I am not so keen as I think the portions are smaller and I would much prefer a large meal served on an average-sized plate. This was a very small portion and I could have eaten another helping. However, the pasta was beautifully cooked and the stuffing of salmon, ricotta and spinach was appetising but full marks has to go to the very light creamy sauce with a hint of lemon and a touch of Parmesan.
My husband also chose a salmon dish but without pasta. The dish; salmone poppe verde was a large fillet of salmon that had been roasted in the oven with green peppers. He couldn't decide whether to have potatoes or a szopska salad. In the end he had both and enjoyed the salmon a great deal. He said it was cooked well and not bony. When we buy salmon from the supermarkets here in Warsaw we are usually disappointed as there are always too many bones. I guess it must be poor quality but shouldn't be as it is very expensive.
So thumbs up for the main meals. What about desserts? Generally we give these a miss but for 12 zloty we couldn't really refuse. You can choose from tiramisu, pancakes, ice cream or panna cotta. I couldn't resist the look of the panna cota. I love this cooked creamy dish flavoured with vanilla and topped with fruit and chocolate sauce. My husband isn't too keen on tiramisu but he does love pancakes so that was his choice. I think 3 or 4 pancakes were served to him and they were paper thin which he was happy about and filled with orange syrup. Delicious, cheap and not so nutritious but what the heck!
As this is only a small restaurant there aren't many waiting staff. The owner and chef were available for a chat if you so wanted to and there was one young waitress who lives in my block and I see her every morning walking her bouncy Airedale dog. She is very smiley and well mannered. Waiter/waitress involvement is minimal, polite and helpful. Just how we like it.
The whole meal came to 153 zloty including 4 beers (0.33.7zlty each). My husband's main dish was the most expensive at 44zloty which included potatoes and a salad. At today's rate of £1 = 5.01704 PLN the meal cost us just over £30.
I know the restaurant isn't central but it's easy to get to if you jump on a tram. You can catch the 13 or 23 from Metro Ratusz Arsenal or the 24 from Central Station. The stop to get off is Mlynow, cross the road, walk straight on, turn right and you are on ul Zawiszy. When you have finished your meal you can always pop round to see me for an after dinner drink.
Also, posted on other sites.