Owned by Estruca (who? my first thoughts too), Caravaggio is part of a small group of Italian restaurants that includes Artigiano (NW3), Il Convivio (SW1W) and Taberna Etrusca (EC4M), none of which we're been to. We have however been to Caravaggio a number of times over the past decade, not because it is a 'must go' restaurant, but rather because it is good enough if you are in the City and are hungry. The City is hardly buzzing with great restaurants and you can probably count on one hand (or less) the number of good Italian restaurants in the City where you can get dinner at 8pm at night. If that sounds strange, remember, the City is lunch driven and many restaurants in the area do not even open for dinner. Caravaggio in fact had so few customers on the occasion of our night time visit that it did make us wonder why they bothered to open though it suited us that they had.
The menu here has a reasonable range of items together with all pasta plates available as starters or main courses. Despite the website suggesting that items on the menu can not be guaranteed because it changes regularly, to our eyes, it looks rather similar to our last visit there which was clearly more than a few years ago. Talking of online menus, if you do want to access their website (umbrella'd under Etrusca's site), it doesn't for me at least open in Chrome, though it's fine in IE even as it becomes clear that tech difficulties have not been caused by the site's magnificence.
For starters it is Cornish crab salad with cucumber and lemon dressing together with Scialatelli alle Vonvgole. Prices are up there, reflecting in our opinion that at lunch, we would guess over half the meals here will be paid for on expense accounts. Accordingly, the crab is £12 and the pasta £11. And the food is okay. The pasta is decent, which you would certainly hope at an Italian restaurant that has been around almost 20 years, and the crab salad is fresh enough with sufficient flavour and texture for you to finish the plate happy enough. It doesn't make you go wow, it doesn't stop the conversation at any time, but if you are entertaining clients who most likely eat out plenty already, nor does it embarrass, and that, in these woods, is important. In that sense, knowing their market, they have nailed the brief.
For our mains, a risotto with langoustine and Milanese de Vitello are both quite decent. Risottos are one of those things that even good restaurants can get horribly wrong and since doing this blog, we've seen many an atrocity. But here it scores well on both the ooze factor with a little bite and I finish the plate. At £15, it seems better value than the starters though the langoustine tails are small and easily lost in the rice. We're sufficiently happy with what we've had to share a dessert and an Amalfi lemon cake with white chocolate and pistachio sauce stays in the tradition of the previous courses such that another empty plate is returned to the kitchen.
Caravaggio does, as noted, hit the brief; on this occasion that being us in the City after 8pm and wanting some comforting Italian food. Being in Leadenhall, they know their customer base, clearly serve them well enough and really don't need to worry about their website not working because it is not a place you travel to to eat, or Google to find. You know it because you are there and they are there, a formula that's worked since 1996. Sometimes things are just not that complicated.