Friday, 15 April 2011

Pasto Italiano

An Italian meal at Stefano's Ristorante Italiano, Pontcanna, Cardiff.

We went to this restaurant in town for a farewell party for one of my members of staff. The restaurant is a house conversion and is located amongst a row of houses. As we walked into the restaurant, there is a lovely and homely ambience to it with soft music at the background. We were then greeted by a very friendly member of staff, quite possibly the owner of the family run business.

Specials on the Board

They offer a 'specials' menu of the day as shown on the blackboard and a wide range of Italian dishes on the normal menu. Like any proper Italian restaurants, they do antipasti, pasta, secondi, contorni, pizza and desserts.

Toasted Bread

While we were deciding on what to order, they served up a complimentary basket of toasted thin bread, which I thought was a very nice gesture.

After much deliberation, we placed our order and after waiting for about 15-20 minutes our starters arrived.


First starter to arrive was the antipasto consisting of mixed Italian sliced meats and hors d'ouevres, which I thought was decorated very nicely on an oval plate. It was served with a basket of breads with balsamic vinegar in olive oil.


Next up was the Capesante - Seared king scallops, on a bed of sweet potato, garnished with crispy parma ham and rocket pesto. The scallops were seared but not enough, it was still a bit raw on the inside as if we were eating sashimi. Maybe that was al dente to the chef? However, I quite like the sweet potatoes and rocket pesto underneath complimenting the sweet and fresh taste of the scallops.

Lamb Cutlets

Finally, the 'specials' lamb cutlets marinated in red wine and herbs, then coated in crispy polenta served with homemade BBQ sauce. This starter in fact tastes as good as it sounds and looks. The two pieces of rack of lambs, deep fried, had a very crispy coating which locked the juices inside hence giving us a very juicy and succulent lamb meat cooked just nice.  The homemade BBQ sauce was also very deliciously sweet and smoky.

Starters done. We waited and waited for at least 45 minutes for our main courses! I guess they gave us the complimentary basket of breads to stop us starving from waiting so long for our food to be served. Was the wait worth it?

We had a variety of pastas and meat dishes for main course.

Polpette with Spaghetti

Polpetto - Italian meatballs in Napoli sauce. Italy is made up of several regions and each region or even smaller districts have their own different style of pasta and sauces or even pizzas! In history, they even make it a law to have certain ingredients in certain dishes for e.g. the Magherita Pizza of Naples. The Napoli sauce is a tomato based sauce which goes really well with Italian meatballs.

The insides of the meatballs served were a little pink but the owner of the restaurant said it is supposed to be served this way. My colleague who had this dish said it was delicious and joked that in fact the meatballs were quite 'tender' due to the pinkishness of the meat!

Gamberetti with Tagliatelle

 Gamberetti - Atlantic prawns served in basil and sunblushed tomato pesto.

A dish with very nice and herby fragrance where the tagliatelle has absorbed all the wonderful flavours of the basil and pesto also with a hint of seafood. We can also taste the freshly milled black pepper seeping through the dish and bringing out the flavours of the dish. A rather well-executed pasta dish.

Anatra D'Arancia

Anatra D'Arancia - Breast of duck served in orange liqueur sauce (served pink unless requested otherwise). This time, the duck was ordered to be well done.

Duck and orange sauce, an inseparable pair. The acidity of the citrous orange cutting through the richness of the duck meat, an absolutely delicious combination!

The orange liqueur sauce on this dish had a very strong liqueur taste to it, not too sour and not to sweet. I think it was just nice to enhance the flavours of the duck breast. Although I could imagine the duck meat would have been much more tender and juicy if it was served a bit more pink.

Seasonal Vegetables

I thought that I will mention the seasonal vegetables served with the meat dishes as they were nicely cooked and worth a small mention. The crispy courgette tempura was very interesting, the mashed sweet potatoes a healthier option and the roast potatoes were tasty.

Cervo al Vino Rosso

Last but not least, the Cervo al Vino Rosso - Wild Scottish venison in a red wine, onion and thyme sauce served on polenta mash. I thought that it was something different from what I normally have to get a meat dish served with polenta mash instead of the usual potato mash. 

The venison was cooked to perfection and served a bit pink, producing juicy and succulent meat.

The thick sauce was absolutely delicious and tasty, full of flavours and very fragrant. Red wine based sauce with red meat - perfect!

Overall, a very nice dining experience in brilliant atmosphere, though a bit pricey so I normally save this place for special occasions.

PS A block away from this restaurant is another nice restaurant serving Welsh/French cuisine - Bully's Restaurant

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