Second bite

Sometimes it takes a second visit in order to truly satisfy those expectations… wherever they may originally have come from. Take I Giardini di Sorrento for example…

Great reviews and a sight of a sumptuous swordfish main dish on the website, and I’m salivating at the prospect of my first visit. However, combine such raised expectations with a visit to a Cardiff based independent family-run Italian restaurant in the company of a fine food critic, who just happened to be returning from Venice 24 hours earlier, and the recipe for success could be quite a challenge!

Fortunately, a light and delicately fried calamari starter primes the taste buds nicely, and those potentially unachievable expectations begin to dissolve into the tender seafood chewiness, spiked with the sharpness of squeezed lemon…

Then comes the tinge of disappointment, as it seems the swordfish has gone awol off the menu tonight, taking a break to allow some poor sea bass to put in a shift! Thoughts turn to a Plan B, and though my choice of salmon pistachio penne was only slightly overly salty, for my guest the risotto principe was quite a few furlongs behind in the race with its Venice counterpart of a few nights earlier.

We leave sated, but with a sense of disappointment; the important lesson being one of tempering expectations before a first visit… just taste the moment. So many awards and great reviews can’t all be misplaced… cue a re-visit, and a chance to soak up the authenticity of a lunchtime capriciossa pizza

It might be Cardiff, but could we really be dining elsewhere?

And even a visit to the restroom involves an additional reminder we could be absorbing Mediterranean vibes…

Until we speak again, there is a question about whether our tastes on the night have anything to do with the overall quality of what is on offer. Should we allow particular expectations to determine our experience in the moment? Well, yes we should… but don’t let that block further adventures into culinary discovery.

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.