Culinario gatti

Calling all you culinary cats… Giovanni’s has been established on The Hayes in the centre of Cardiff since 1983; but in 2013 a second branch opened on Park Place, conveniently opposite the New Theatre. But, don’t expect any Godfather III operatic grandstanding here… for a start, you may be greeted by a less than appetising facade of scaffolding, as painting is in progress.

Front [1]

It is worth getting past your penchant for deciding the quality of a restaurant based on the external appearance (particularly as this will change sometime soon). After all, you should be in food critic, not architectural critic mode, if your aim is to satisfy gastronomic urges. I know, I’m a hypocrite, as I am often critical of sloppy architecture, including that of modern restaurants.

On a recent post rugby match visit, there were plenty of persone che mangiano di ristoranti, with everyone engrossed in the menu under the expert tutelage of the resident maestro…

Giovanni's [1]

It is worth lingering over the menu, as this is no run-of-the-mill Italian chain. We are talking a family-run restaurant with plenty of amore put into the whole experience as well as the culinary produce. For the visiting young one it was Scallops Al Limone for a starter, which received glowing praise from someone who knows his scallops. I opted for the Gamberoni all Marchesa (roasted king prawns in garlic, white wine and parsley)…

Giovanni's [2]

Yes, I know it should be white wine with any seafood; but my inner Lecter couldn’t resist a nice Chianti! As for main courses, the visiting ‘Son of Cool’ went for the traditional option of a good home cooked Lasagne Emiliana Fatta in Casa, and yours truly was in the mood for a main that would live up to the red wine accompaniment. So, what better than a Penne Spezzatino (fillet steak in garlic, wine and tomato sauce)…

Giovanni's [3]

Some of you might be licking your lips with anticipation of what quintessential Italian desserts are about to be laid out before you. Well, tough… this is early evening, and space needs to be left for a few beers elsewhere (you can only have so much of a good Italian thing before reverting to what the British do better!). But, before I leave you, and in the continuing spirit of hydration, I did indulge in a double espresso and Sambucca on the side. There are some liquids that only the Italians really know how to make!

Giovanni's [4]

We both left full of culinario contentezza, as we transitioned from Italian delicato to the bustle of a Saturday night in a British pub. Until we speak again, may all of your cornetto’s be less than vanilla. And Bella says ciao.

Farewell

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.