Italian cuisine is another favourite in our household. Eddie spends a fair bit of time working in Italy, so the pressure is on to produce a good standard at home!
For a good simple starter, you can’t beat antipasti (plural of antipasto, literally meaning ‘before the meal’). In Italian cuisine, this often consists of cold cured meats (such as Prosciutto or Parma Ham), cheeses, and raw / marinated vegetables. Add in some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and warm crusty bread, and the combination can be quite heavenly.
Following the antipasti is the primo piatto, or the first course. This generally consists of pasta, rice, gnocchi, polenta or soup.
In the UK we tend to eat pasta or rice as a main course dish, but traditionally in Italy, the portions tend to be much smaller. This is because the secondo piatto, or second course follows. This usually consists of meat or fish, with side dishes of vegetables or salad (Contorno). Most Italian restaurants in the UK will present these as an either / or choice on their menus, but if you ask they will probably be delighted to provide a smaller pasta dish as a primo piatto, followed by a fish or meat dish.
Even desserts can be served in 2 courses – Formaggio & Frutta (Cheese & Fruit), to be followed by Dolca (a sweet dessert, like biscuits or cake). Next comes the coffee, and then “digestives“, which are liqueurs such as limoncello or grappa.
We are very fortunate in that we have a number of good Italian restaurants here in Swindon.
One of my favourites is Mario’s on Wood Street. The restaurant is situated in a basement, with a real ‘wine cellar’ and homely feel to it. Some of the tables include benches in niches in the walls, ideal for a cosy intimate meal during the quieter periods. On weekends it does get extremely busy (a sign of it’s popularity), and so the atmosphere is better for groups of friends. The waiters are friendly, and at times entertaining. The food is excellent, and very reasonably priced.
Another restaurant I can recommend is La Dolce Vita, on Clarence Street near the bottom of Victoria Hill. The decor is more upmarket here, are as the prices. However, the food is excellent and good value for money. The wine list hosts an great choice of Italian wines. The atmosphere is just right for an intimate dinner even during the more busier periods.