Asti - Cucina Italiana
Good food from breakfast to dinner in this Italian cafe/bar - pastas, risottos, and handmade desserts.
£10 Challenge, Asti: A European café bar with light or full meals thoughtout the day
Reviewed by Irene Brown
Saturday, January 28, 2012 - 4:49pm
It was happy chance that brought us to Asti (the last restaurant in my 10 Pound Challenge), as my original choice of restaurant had given up doing lunches. Well, once again, Voltaire’s Dr. Pangloss lives. ‘All for the best in the best of all possible worlds!’
The scaffolding was visible as we approached, and there was a twinge of foreboding that it may be closed but sight of the pavement blackboard hove into view and we breathed a sigh of relief.
The work being done was the finishing touches to the sign above the door that tells you are entering more than a restaurant. It is ‘Asti – Cucina Italiana and Bar’ with their sleek logo of a maroon coloured capital A on a clever mosaic of food and drink images held in a circle.
We were warmly welcomed by manager Fiona who gave us a choice of seating from which we elected to settle in the back room with the white painted bay window that looks out to a garden whose trees add a pleasant backdrop. The restaurant itself has pale walls that are painted a soothing mushroom below the dado. The floor and tables are of plain wood and the chairs have a smooth black leather look. There is a bijou feel to the place.
As we slowly chose our dishes from the serious temptations, we plumped for a couple of glasses of red Sicilian wine to accompany. The choice was a must for me as I’d just been watching the BBC programme Sicily Unpacked with chef Giorgio Locatelli and art critic Andrew Graham Dixon, so was happy to be transported there again via a rich glass of red. We were served water, duly iced and sliced, as a matter of course - all part of the attentive service at Asti.
Today’s lunch chum, M., chose as a starter Bruschetta Balsamico which came heaped with fresh tomato, generous squares of Parmesan shavings, rocket, a hint of garlic and of course the balsamic vinegar of the dish’s name.
My choice was Polpette alla Calalinga which was four luscious beef and pork meatballs flavoured with lemon zest, chillies and garlic in a rich yet light tomato sauce with lots of squidgy cheese and served with two slices of lightly toasted bread, one of which I left as I wanted to relish what I’d chosen to follow.
Risotto on the menu always secretly says ‘Eat me’ so the Risotto al Nero di sepia was a must for me. The Arborio rice came with calamari, mussels, clams and I was right back in Monte Verde in Roma where I last ate a dish with squid ink. Proustian indeed!
M. decided on Pappardelle al ragu D’Agnello which is braised shoulder of lamb stew served on pappardelle. The stew was tender and full of fragrant spices and the broad ribboned pasta perfectly cooked. Chef Richard had done us proud!
The 2 course lunch menu at Asti costs £9.75 and includes a cup of Asti’s own excellent freshly ground coffee served with an Amaretti biscuit. Earlier on I said we’d ‘settled’ in at table, well a better word I couldn’t have chosen as three hours later we thought we should move! Nothing could be a better testament to a restaurant– relaxed atmosphere, good food and wine, attentive service.
Proprietor Marcello Crolla has chosen the name Asti as it is his favourite region in Italy, best known for its spumante wine. The concept is that of a European café bar that starts with breakfast and goes through the day to full meals with a 5pm Stuzzichini menu at £11.95 that offers any 3 stuzzichini /antipasti with a glass of wine or prosecco. A new broom really has swept through these premises in Broughton’s Village!
Read about more restaurants from the £10 Pound Challenge