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Tag Archives: Italian
A long time ago myself and Mr Artist used to go to a little Italian restaurant in Newcastle upon Tyne called Roberto La Dolce Vita or Roberto’s as it was known to us. Now, we were both young, and I am not proud to admit this, but we used to think it was the greatest restaurant around because the carafes of house wine were about £7 for a litre, and we would get pretty drunk while ordering far too much off the menu! To be fair though, we did visit the restaurant when sober as well, and the food was really good with possibly the best chips ever – perfectly seasoned and just a dream to soak up the house wine…
As time went by we stopped visiting Roberto’s because Roberto died, the restaurant closed for a long time and when it reopened the menu had changed and it seemed to lose a little bit of that special charm that used to make us visit so often. So we simply stopped going.
Roll on about 8 years, and myself and Mr Artist found ourselves in Newcastle visiting family and popped into town for a bit of lunch from our favourite Italian in the Bigg Market that we started going to before I moved to Leamington Spa. As we walked to the entrance we noticed it was shut and going to re-open under new management, not usually a good sign, so slightly disappointed we walked over to our second choice Italian which was closed for refurbishment! Oh dear, we had been talking about looking forward to lunch all day and it looked like we would end up somewhere not so good. Our journey searching for somewhere to eat lead us to the Westgate Road area of town, where Roberto’s was – and with a little persuasion we thought we would try it once again for old times sake.
Now, we didn’t have much time so we knew it would just be the case of a quick pizza and chips, and sadly for Mr Artist, no carafe of house wine!. We started with a garlic bread with tomatoes, yum. very garlicy, lovely tasty seasoning, perfect base. delicious. Some people might say where can you go wrong with a garlic bread, believe me it must be easier than you think because I have had some terrible ones! This however, was delicious.
I decided to have a seafood pizza which is usually my first choice, only problem is they irritate the top of my mouth a little depending on what brand of tuna is used but as they usually taste so good I put up with the discomfort! This one again was perfect, excellent base, mouth watering toppings…please – just look at the picture, it was rather excellent. Although I couldn’t finish it so doggy bag home for this one!
Mr Artist went for the Kiev pizza, and again perfect base. the topping was so garlicky and mourish according to him, I honestly can’t look at this without wanting a bite – sadly this photograph is about as close as you get to a pizza when Mr Artist is around, as he ate it all up without offering me any!
The chips were also delicious and reminded us both of how they used to be…in the good old days…
If you get a chance and you are in the Westgate Road area of Newcastle this place is well worth a visit, even the decoration and tables coverings were the same from all those years ago!
For me Lasagna is one of the ultimate comfort foods, It can be incredibly time consuming to make but it’s so worth it, especially if you make enough for leftovers.
To make this Lasagna you will need:
1.5 packets of dried lasagne sheets
50g mushrooms, finely chopped
splash of oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
700g good-quality beef mince
1 wine glass of red wine
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1 x 400g tin good-quality chopped tomatoes
1 beef stock cube
pinch of Italian herbs
1 x quantity of white sauce
50g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
50g grated coloured cheese
Preheat the oven to 180 ̊C
Heat a large pan over a medium heat, add a splash of oil and cook the onion, carrot and celery and leave to sweat with the lid on for 10 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and mushrooms to the pan and stir for 1 minute, season with salt and pepper.
Add the minced beef to the pan and cook until browned all over. Pour in the wine and keep stirring until the liquid starts to reduce.
Stir in the tomato purée and chopped tomatoes and add 200ml of boiling water. Crumble in the stock cube. Leave the sauce to simmer with the lid on for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to simmer for a further 15-20 minutes.
Assemble the lasagne by covering the bottom of an ovenproof dish with a thin layer of meat sauce, follow this with a layer of pasta. Top with a layer of white sauce and then a layer of meat sauce. Continue in this order until you have 4 or 5 layers of pasta and finish with the white sauce.
Sprinkle the white sauce with the Parmesan and coloured cheese and cook in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.
Serve with extra parmesan and a fresh salad.
Gusto Ricco is a bit of a tardis, it’s tiny from the outside but there is seating for many people inside although some of the tables are very close together. There is a very rustic feel to the cafe making it feel very authentic, the decor is very traditional with lots of wood. We climbed the stairs upstairs which would be a struggle for some people as they are quite tight and found a lovely little table for two in the corner.
After browsing the menu I decided that I was slightly hungrier than I had anticipated and chose to have the Lasagna, on first glance I thought that the small brown bowl wouldn’t even fill a small gap but boy was I wrong! The Lasagna was filled with meat and sauce and was so delicious I can still taste the flavours. The pesto oil on top just added to the flavour and the chunk of bread on the side was fabulous for mopping up the juices left in the bowl.
Mr Gourmand had polished off a huge breakfast a couple of hours earlier so Pizza Bruschetta was all he could manage however it was a much bigger portion than he expected. Layered with pepperoni, tomato and cheese and served with a simple salad and crisps it was definitely not a light lunch.
Mr Gourmand was in a coffee kind of mood and being an Italian cafe the coffee was very good, just as expected and came with an amaretto biscuit which I was quick to steal as they are my favourite kind of biscuit. I had a bog standard Coca Cola which to my delight was served in a glass bottle – why does it always taste better out of a bottle? We will definitely be visiting this gem of a place again, there is no room for prams or pushchairs so Arthur will have to be worn in a carrier should we visit with him.
Gusto Ricco Cafe can be found at 65 Regent St, Town Centre, Leamington Spa CV32 5DX.
I was recently invited to Prezzo to sample their limited edition sharing menu which is available until 4th March 2012. Our waiter Peter could not have been more attentive and was happy to offer advice on the the meals available and his favourites, although he was quick to point out most meals were very good.
The restaurant had a great atmosphere and was full due to it being Valentines Day, yet the Staff were very attentive, drinks were replenished when needed, empty plates were cleared quickly, and fresh courses brought out to eager diners with loved-up eyes and soon satisfied stomachs.
I was very impressed with small details like the chilled glasses, there is nothing worse than putting a cold drink into a warm glass. The soft drinks were served to the table in a glass bottle which I prefer as drinks seem to taste nicer when served out of an ice cold bottle.
Mini Gourmand took her time perusing the vast menu, I would have probably ordered everything as there were some amazing sounding dishes on the but we decided that myself and Mr Gourmand would order from the sharers menu and Mini Gourmand and Grandma Gourmand would order from the main menu. We couldn’t quite decide what to order so we went for an appetizer to give us a little more time.
Marinated Olives (£2.95) The mixture of green and black pitted olives were marinated in a mixture of garlic, peppers, herbs and olive oil. I found the green olives were very firm and juicy holding the flavours well. The black olives were soft and soaked up the delicious oil. I loved the contemporary bowl that housed the olives. The delicious olives gave our brains enough time to select the combinations of food we thought could satisfy our craving stomachs.
The King Prawns (£5.65) were served in a spicy tomato sauce with just a hint of chilli which left a nice amount of heat in the back of the mouth. a sprinkling of spinach garnished over the prawns really complemented the dish.
We shared a Pane Con Cipolla (£4.95) which was the perfect combination of thin base and soft and bouncy with a crispy crust thin base. There was a perfect combination of cheese and sweet onion, the garlic not at all overpowering, and beautifully tangy. Mr Gourmand and Grandma Gourmand commended this as their favourite starter.
Next up was the Italian Nachos (£6.95) which mixed sweet and juicy red and yellow cherry tomatoes with smooth Pesto and just the right amount of basil to not be overpowering from. Mini gourmand devoured these.
In my opinion I have left the best till last. I ordered Green Pea and Basil Soup (£4.95) from the Sharing Menu. This was beautiful and creamy with a kick of pepper. There were so many different flavours in the soup which combined to create an amazing taste with a slight aniseed after taste which is really cleansing on the palette. The peas provided a different texture giving a combination of smooth and chunky at the same time which is very pleasing, a pleasing and perfect consistency. Probably the nicest soup I had ever tasted. Time for the mains.
Now this was an interesting concept – a selection of sharing pizzas that offered contrasting and complimentary toppings. The Hot and Not (£16.95) was always going to be Mr Gourmands choice. The Hot side featured Bolognese sauce, red onion, roasted peppers, fresh chilli, crushed chilli, rocket and mozzarella The Not side featured white béchamel sauce, button, field and oyster mushrooms, spinach and mozzarella drizzled with truffle infused oil.
The Hot Pizza had a beautifully thin base, a perfect ratio of meat to vegetables and a spicy heat that made the lips tingle.
The Not pizza was very creamy and the mushroom texture was really gorgeous alongside the crispy base. The bechamel sauce was a lovely surprise and made a comforting change to tomato and worked extremely well with the mushrooms. The base was thin yet fluffy and the spinach gave the dish a very light taste which worked very well with the richness of the sauce.
I ordered the Seafood and Meat (£17.95). The Seafood side featured king prawns, grilled artichokes, spinach, olives, fennel, tomato and mozzarella drizzled with a tomato chilli dressing. The Meat side featured spicy Italian sausage, roasted peppers, red onions, Roquito chilli, fresh rocket, tomato and mozzarella.
The seafood pizza had a lovely thin base with great kick from the tomato chilli dressing that permeated around the mouth. The fennel gives great crunch and artichoke added great flavour. There was also just the right amount of cheese and subtle flavour of oregano which was common on both pizzas.
The Italian Sausage pizza had amazing fruity flavour from the peppers which gave a sweetness to the pizza. The dryness of the sausage was delicious making it more like a Mediterranean dish than a pizza.
My only slight criticism was the Pizzas were rather difficult to cut on the boards even with the pizza cutter, you never really felt like you were cutting through it. I would like to mention that even after the pizzas had cooled down not one had gone crispy on the bottom, they were still a perfect texture.
Mini Gourmand ordered The Carbonara (£9.15) which unusually came with crispy prosciutto which was delightful and gave this dish a much more expensive and exotic flavour than when it is prepared with the usual bacon. The cheesy sauce was particularly tasty and had a great smokey taste that seemed infused with the pasta. Mini Gourmand polished this meal off without much help, and believe me when I say this, she knows a good carbonara , and the sparkling plate she left was testament to this.
Grandma Gourmand opted for the tried and tested Spaghetti Bolognese (£8.95), which although quite safe in terms of choice, is a good gage for Italian expertise as they can be bland. A perfect sized portion of delicious soft pasta was presented with good sauce to pasta ratio. The Bolognese consistency was described as perfect with a lovely meaty taste. Mister Gourmand is a man of few words, I now see where he gets this from. Everyone was so full after their starters and mains courses that deserts were never going to be ordered, thirty seconds later we all had a change of heart…..
We ordered a medley of starters from the coffee and small desert menu, alongside one desert from the main menu. We decided to share everything. The vanilla cheesecake with coffee (£4.95) was covered with a raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries, the cheesecake was light and fluffy with a creamy texture, the tartness of the coulis was delicious alongside the sweetness of the cheesecake.
The lemon drizzle cake with coffee (£4.95) was light and fluffy with a sweet crunchy topping with an added tartness. The raspberries worked so well with the cake and added not only texture but flavour bringing out the lemony taste.
The profiterole with latte (£4.95) was like an inside out version of the popular classic. The filling was a chocolate cream covered with a vanilla cream and decorated with milk chocolate curls. A lovely combination and perfect as part of the coffee and cake option if you really want a desert, but feel like you can’t quite eat the full size version.
The chocolate fudge cake (£5.15) was sweet and decadent, the fudge filling was one of the nicest I’ve tasted. Having such a big slice of cake would be a challenge for anyone after such a huge meal, but Mini Gourmand managed to polish it off in record time!
All meals except the two Spaghetti dishes and desserts were recommended by Peter for us to try to give us an idea of the variety of dishes offered by the restaurant.
I would like to thank Prezzo Leamington Spa for inviting me to sample their menu, as always my review is honest and impartial and my opinion has not been forced.
Firenze is situated in the courtyard off Holly Avenue West, Jesmond it’s actually just at the top of our street yet this was my first visit!
It’s not very often that I get to dine with Mr Gourmands mother, we are usually both very busy but on this rare occasion we decided to visit Firenze
The restaurant is very spacious meaning you are not worried about another table listening in to your conversation and far enough away from any tables with children.
The menu has a good selection of starters, pizza, pasta, meat and fish dishes.
On this occasion we decided to eat from the two dine for £20 menu which includes a Starter, Main and glass of house wine each.
Mr Gourmands Mum started with the Potato Skins which were accompanied by a Garlic Mayo and Smoked Paprika dip. The potato skins were delicious and seemed to go on for ever, both of the dips were delicious and it was nice to have a choice of two.
The prawn classic was a twist on the classic dish, salad ingredients were crisp and fresh, prawns were juicy and the sauce tasted home made.
The dish was beautifully seasoned and quite filling.
Mr Gourmands mum picked the pan seared chicken breast with creamy leak and parmesan sauce served with hand cut chips. After eating the mountain of potato skins she wished the dish had come with vegetables but that didn’t stop her finishing the deliciously sweet chips.
The chicken was perfectly cooked and the sauce was delicious.
My main course was the Tuscan lamb stew served on creamed potatoes, this was a filling dish, a very filling dish. The flavours were amazing, the lamb was tender and abundant and the mash was delicious.
I only actually managed to eat half of the dish unfortunately, If Mr Gourmand had been with me I know he would have finished it off for me!
We finished off our meal with two coffees which were kindly topped up once we had finished. I would not hesitate to visit Firenze again and need to arrange a date with Mr Gourmand.
Quite often during the school holidays Mini Gourmand likes to have quality mother daughter time which of course always revolves around food. Mini Gourmands first choice when asked where shall we eat, home or town is always Scalini’s as it’s only at the top of the road – She’s lazy!
Scalini’s is situated on Osborne Road which is always busy with students, couples and families.
On Monday – Thursday all day, Friday 12pm-7pm, Saturday 12pm – 6pm and Sunday 6pm – 10pm Scalini’s have a meal deal special where you can enjoy 2 courses for £5.95 or three courses for £6.95
We both decided to take advantage of this menu as it was fantastic value.
Mini Gourmand started with the Bruschetta all Pommodoro which was a slice of toasted bread topped with tomatoes, red onion, garlic, basil and olive oil (£3.75), I was allowed to try a mouthful and it was really delicious, the tomatoes were fresh and the flavours worked really well together.
I started with the Bucce di patate which was Deep fried potato skins served with dips (£4.75) The potato skins were crispy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside, they were served with a garlic dip and a tomato dip which tasted like pureed tinned tomatoes rather than tomato ketchup.
Mini Gourmand picked the Lasagna al forno which is baked layered pasta with beef & tomato ragu,
mozzarella and parmesan cheese sauce. (£7.25) It was a large portion even by mine and Mr Gourmands standards so I was surprised when Mini Gourmand demolished half of the monstrous lasagna which she thought was delicious.
My main course was the Quattro stagione which consisted of Tomato, mozzarella, olives, mushrooms, artichoke, ham but I asked for it without ham as I don’t eat pork products. (£6.95) There was a lot of cheese on this pizza and I mean a lot of cheese, surprisingly the picture is making me out to be a liar but I can assure you that a cow was milked for a long time to make the cheese for my pizza! It tasted good but was very very filling!
Mini Gourmand finished with a simple vanilla ice cream
The only thing I could face after the amount of food i’d consumed was a coffee!
You can find Scalini’s at 61 Osborne Road, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Puccini is a quirky little Italian Restaurant found just off the Bigg Market in Newcastle’s city centre, no matter if you dine on a lunch time or evening, the restaurant is always full which speaks for itself.
Frankie & Bennys is an American Italian chain combining the best of popular American food with traditional Italian dishes. The chain first started in 1995 and now has over 150 branches across theUKand abroad.
Frankie & Benny’s restaurants are themed to reflect a 1950s Italian-American diner.
I particularly like the old photos and the Italian lessons played in the toilets! The restaurant itself plays classic American 1950s pop albums which are available to purchase in-house.
Lunch menus are available Monday – Friday, 11am until 5pm, you get 3 menus to choose from the main menu, lunch value menu and the specials menu. The lunch menu has over 30 dishes to choose from, 1 course will cost you £5.95, 2 courses £7.95 and 3 courses £8.95
The Specials Menu is available all day Sunday – Friday, and 2 courses costs £9.95 or you can get 3 courses for £11.90.
Mr Gourmand preferred the dishes on the specials menu and started with the Southern Blue Mushroom which consisted of two flat mushrooms filled with mozzarella, garlic and breadcrumbs, oven baked and served with fresh rocket, Italian hard cheese and balsamic glaze.
As this was Mr Gourmands first trip to Frankie and Bennys he had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised when his starter arrived. Aesthetically the plate looked very appealing and the mmm noises coming from Mr Gourmand while gulping mouthfuls of food and air simultaneously could only be interpreted as his approval.
As a regular to Frankie and Bennys I’ve tried the majority of the dishes so decided to go for items I’ve never tried before. I usually eat from the lunch value menu and this time was to be no different. I started with the Bruschetta which is a homemade mix of fresh tomato, red onion, basil, olive oil and cracked black pepper served over toasted garlic ciabatta bread, finished with a balsamic glaze. Four huge slices of garlic bread were served with a delicious tangy salsa, the amount of food was far too much for one person so Mr Gourmand helped me out!
As Frankie and Bennys pride themselves on their American Italian food Mr Gourmand felt it would be wrong not to have a burger so his main course was the New Yorker burger, a 6oz* grilled hamburger topped with BBQ sauce, pepper jack cheese, mayo and bacon, piled high with Cos lettuce and fresh tomato in a toasted sesame seed bun. This was complimented with house fries and tomato-chilli relish on the side. Mr Gourmand was astonished at the value and quantity of food presented and I could tell from the sulky look on his face, that was also splattered with the odd bit of relish, that he was secretly ashamed of himself for not dining here before today. His starter looked superb and he described the burger as ‘as good as he’s had,’ which is some compliment from a man who has clearly had his fair share.
I went for a simple Chicken Caeser salad which consisted of Grilled chicken breast, crispy Cos lettuce leaves, white anchovy, tomato and fresh garlic ciabatta croutons drizzled with a Caesar dressing, topped with Italian cheese and served with a wedge of lemon. When the salad arrived It was huge, I certainly was not expecting the amount of chicken placed on my plate, again Mr Gourmand had to help me out, a common theme on a Gourmand food visit. The anchovies were fresh and as a regular, I was once again more than impressed with the meal presented before me. Thoroughly recommended.
Mr Gourmand finished off his meal with the Apple & Rhubarb crumble which was served with warm custard and I had a coffee (£1.95). During the meal we drank 2 unlimited refill Diet coke (£4.50) and the total bill came to £25.35.
Spago restaurant is situated within minutes of the House of Gourmand, however, in all of the years we have lived in Jesmond we have never visited. After one of those days when you just can’t be bothered to cook we decided to take advantage of the Special Menu at Spago.
The Special Menu is served between 12pm -2pm & 5.30pm – 7pm Monday to Friday and changes every couple of months.
For £7.25 you get a choice of 3 starters, 2 special dishes or any pizza or pasta and a filter coffee.
Mr Gourmand opted for the Minestrone soup which was plentiful with a slightly spicy taste and more vegetables than you usually find accompanying a main course. The soup was mopped up with the generous serving of homemade bread that quickly arrived following our drinks order.
I was left with only one choice as I don’t like having the same dish (it’s a sharing thing) and the other option contained blue cheese which of course I’m allergic too so I chose the Green Lip Mussels with a pepper salsa. The Mussels were huge and tasted very fresh, the pepper salsa was basically chopped peppers and a bit of onion, it’s not something I would have put with the mussels myself as the flavours didn’t really complement each other. The side salad had a delicious basil / olive oil flavour and I would have preferred this to be poured on the mussels rather than the salad.
Mr Gourmand’s main course was a Fillet of Smoked Haddock in a curry sauce served with broccoli, carrots, broad beans and dauphinoise potato. The smoked fish and curry was quite a tantalizing combination which was why Mr Gourmand decided to sample it. The Haddock was beautifully prepared and also a large portion for such a reasonable price, while the curry sauce was equally delicious but sadly too delicate for the smoked fish which left it overpowered. It was still delicious however, but the curry sauce would have been better served with a less strong tasting fish such as Talapia. The vegetables were perfect as is so often the case in small, independent Italian restaurants with good variety and extra marks for the dauphinoise potatoes, which for a long time have been a firm favourite in the House of Gourmand.
I went for a rather basic choice, a Napoli pizza containing anchovy and capers. The simple flavours really complimented each other with the saltiness of the anchovy and the softness of the capers. There was just the right amount of topping meaning that each mouthful had a delicious piece of the anchovy and capers. It is also worth noting that my pizza was so large I couldn’t finish it!
To conclude the meal we had a cup of coffee each. I don’t know what it is about filter coffee from an Italian restaurant but it is always delicious and the coffee served at Spago was no exception! I loved the smoky strong flavour which nicely finished off an enjoyable evening.
Overall it was a good and very reasonably priced experience with helpful staff and a welcoming, traditional atmosphere; it is worth noting traditional for me means not being kissed by the waiters, although we spotted a little of this going on with some of the more elderly ladies so not to worry if that is your thing. The Gourmands will certainly be visiting again as Mr Gourmand has his heart set on tackling one of the pizzas next time.
Spago is situated at 15 Osborne Road, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne.