A Hype-Free Hideaway

MTPeppino's pluses include its Sardinian chef and understated interior.
An obscure lane about halfway between Hermitage Garden and Tsvetnoi Bulvar isn't what realtors have in mind when they crow "location, location, location!"

Indeed, the recently opened Italian restaurant Peppino is unlikely to fill its tables with passers-by dropping in or even with spillover from neighboring eateries, since neither are to be found here.

But what just might do the trick for this cozy little basement is word-of-mouth advertising, once satisfied guests spread the word about the friendly Sardinian chef and his delicious, lovingly made cuisine.

Another thing that Peppino has going for it is low-key tastefulness and elegance, with none of the off-putting pafos too often encountered at restaurants of its class. It isn't a scene, nor a place to see and be seen; the good thing about yet-to-be-discovered spots like this is their usefulness for discreet dates and business dinners.

Peppino isn't cheap. The soups range from 250 rubles for minestrone or consomme with porcini, up to 750 rubles for a zupetta with Mediterranean seafood. Pasta starts at 300 rubles for penne all' arrabbiata and reaches 650 rubles for spaghetti alla bottarga. Meat mains include osso bucco alla Milanese (680 rubles) and beef filet with either porcini or green pepper sauce (both 900 rubles). For lovers of fish and seafood, there are king prawns in garlic sauce (670 rubles) and fish grilled, steamed or cooked in salt -- turbot (350 rubles per 100 grams), branzino and dorado (both 280 rubles per 100 grams).

For those on a budget or having a casual dinner, the best choice is the delicious thin-crust pizza, which starts from 300 rubles for either margherita, napolitana with anchovies and capers, or with porcini.

Wine starts from 280 rubles a glass of white or 340 rubles for red, while bottles go for 1,400 rubles upwards. Draft Carlsberg costs 200 rubles a half-liter.

Some nice touches ensure a good impression, such as the complimentary basket of focaccia, sourdough and grissini, and the broadly smiling chef's warm-hearted greetings at your table.

6 Bolshoi Karetny Per., Bldg. 1, 699-3696/9171/4503, noon-midnight, M. Tsvetnoi Bulvar.