To get an unpretentious Italian eating-house
in Old Compton Street, Soho, that has long disappeared, was a good as attending
the opera - if one was in the magic circle. Here all day, and every day,
congregated the leading exponents, male and female, of Italian opera. At a piano
on the first floor finishing touches were given to morceaux, duets were tried
over, and, in addition to the vocalists, soloists of the highest order "ran
through" special passages of their scores, while below, viands of the
strictest Italian type were being consumed from morning to night.
Here oss-buco, and minestrone, and spaghetti were to be found as undiluted as at Savini's in Milan, and washed down with such productions of the vine as Chianti, Lacrima Christi, and Capri.
No abominations in imitation of French cookery were to be found here. No half-crown dinners of half-a-dozen courses, with their deadly accompaniments of artichokes fried in tallow (au Cardinal) would have been permitted here; no New Zealand mutton garnished with turnip-tops (ris de veau garni aux truffes) could have showed its unhallowed head of the present-day type existed, and shop-boys and shop-girls knew their places too well to venture into such reserved pastures, even with the prospect of eating a veritable dinner as served on the Continent.
'One of the Old Brigade' (Donald Shaw), London in the Sixties, 1908