Christmas in Peckham

How do you avoid the repetition of a traditional Christmas meal? Well, we’ve previously done Cardiff in July, Blackheath in June, central London in January… but here we were, planning on having our annual Christmas meal in December of all places! Trouble is, most restaurants seem to want to ditch what they are known for, and produce their version of what everyone is doing.

I have to admit, on this occasion I was doing the travelling, so it seemed only right to delegate the venue choice to the dude living locally. “Peckham…”, he suggested. Well, the first thing to come to mind was the song lyric “Is there life in Peckham?” Turns out, there really is, and amongst other contenders, it is alive and well at…

Artusi sign

On inspecting the online menu possibilities, it seemed like we were attending the first night of a somewhat far more adventurous Christmas menu than I had seen before. But, despite getting up my resolve to go for it, redemption came in the form of having to book it in advance. We hadn’t, so we were left to their very own tradition of setting out their Italian inspired menu of the day on a blackboard near the restaurant entrance…

Chalkboard menu

A Salt Beef starter arrived with just the right blend of soft melt-in-the-mouth tender brisket and tart pickled cucumber…

Salt Beef starter

The main dish of Rigatoni Sausage Ragu came in the form of small pasta tubes with smaller pieces of sausage in a delicate balance. Why get stuffed, when you can just enjoy a satisfying blend of complementary flavours? Though it is very clear to me that had Juno been present that Sea Bream across the table would not last the time it takes for a blog post snap…

Canelloni Sausage Ragu

Until we speak again, it seems there is life in Peckham, and it comes in a very satisfyingly un-Christmas package. Artusi is for any time, not just for Christmas!

Artusi entrance

Grazie mille

St John's ChurchItaly is known for many things but churches and food seem to occupy a generous amount of their culture. Juno always managed to recognise the food and religion combination, and as for most cats it usually took the form of a food-food combo!

Understandably, the Italian community in Cardiff would like to reflect the centuries of home-grown cultural significance, and Cafe Citta is a classic example of achieving that very same vibe. Located on Church Street, and in the shadows of the historic St. John’s Church, this is everything you would expect of a family-run Italian restaurant (and more).

Cafe Citta [1]

Forget everything you know about the many Italian chain restaurants that litter our high streets. If it’s authentic you are looking for then this tiny little corner of Cardiff can offer almost everything that any corner in Italy can. The menu is reasonably brief and unfussy, which I have always found to be a good reflection of quality… focus on what you are really good at, don’t try to offer everything to everyone! If it’s not to your liking then you can always go trip over a ‘chain’ around the nearest corner.

This place is both small and extremely popular, so booking is almost always going to be essential…

Cafe Citta [2]

With an open kitchen and wood-burning pizza oven the choice of main meals, after the olives and warm bread entre, wasn’t going to be a difficult choice. The specials board held many a temptation, but I had booked weeks in advance with the promise to my eating compatriot that Wales was going to come up with the superb pizza that our recent visit to Palermo had not! One Diavalo and one Quattro Stagioni for sharing between us were promptly ordered. A great combination of ham, spicy salami, artichokes, olives, peppers, mushrooms and some fiery chilli addition was just right as the Pinot Grigio was sliding down nicely.

Cafe Citta [3]

The dough is expertly thrown in the open kitchen, and comes thin and crispy, but just right as a base for the cheese & tomato essentials topped off with the required fabulous array of ingredients. Pizza heaven had been ascended into!

Neither of us food protagonists have a sweet tooth, so desserts are not normally the order of the day. But this was the quintessential family owned and run restaurant, and they tempted us with the promise that everything they serve is home made. Italian trademark Tiramisu is something I have occasionally indulged in, so the decision was made…

Cafe Citta [4]

… and yes, it was certainly home made and interestingly served up in a coffee cup. It proved to be a delicate and perfectly balanced end to a fabulous meal. Sambucca and an Italian Brandy were a natural compliment to the dessert, leaving two diners completely satisfied with a top class experience.

Until we speak again may all of your dining experiences be culturally crafted to the highest of standards.