City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Cafe Domenico's

Average Rating:
Restaurant profile
Edinburgh Area: 
Leith and Leith Walk
Serving times: 
Sun-Thu 12:00-22:00 Fri-Sat 12:00-22:30
(0131) 467 7266

Warm hearted Italian treasure serving up excellent pasta dishes and daily specials down near the Port of Leith.

The Reviews


Excellent little Italian charmer down by The Shore

Reviewed by Euan Andrews

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - 5:08pm

Leith is quite a gastro-destination for the discerning Edinburgh eater these days. In the few minutes it can take to walk between the Michelin-starred might of The Kitchin to Martin Wishart’s equally feted premises, a whole plethora of restaurants, bars, pubs, sandwich shops etc will be passed by. You could gorge yourself on a culinary orgy simply wandering from doorway to doorway on a “food crawl”. Something for City of Edinburgh Council to think about, maybe?

So, in amongst this abundance of riches, it’s easy for the smaller establishment to be overlooked, particularly when they’re sited just opposite the row of restaurant powerhouses that is Commercial Quay. But Café Domenico’s manages to hold its own as the little Italian charmer that it is. A warm welcome is instantly provided on entering the small room, which is trinket-laden with homely charm in traditional style. Unfortunately, at 7pm on a Tuesday evening, we are at first the only diners and the proprietors’ eagerness to please can seem a bit overbearing. But we swiftly relax and soon a few more tables are filled with what are, going by the reactions they receive, clearly regular patrons.

The set menu, whether for lunch or dinner, consists of a small but perfectly formed selection of starters and mains, with a particular focus on the pasta dishes which can be served for either course. There’s also a list of specials which changes on a daily basis. Unfortunately, M’s appetite is slightly under the weather and so she decides to sit out the starters. Robin and I, however, are more than ready to get stuck in.

One thing to say about Café Domenico’s is it is best to go there when you are very, very hungry. This may seem peculiar advice for a potential restaurant goer, but this is not somewhere to pop in for a snack. We’re talking seriously large portion sizes here. The “small” sized spaghetti with clams, mussels, rocket and tomatoes which touches down before me would heartily fill most eaters alone, while also being delicious, fresh and full of spring flavour. It’s a nice touch that only sauces are offered under the pasta selection, choice of pasta being purely the customer’s choice.

Robin is equally happy with his bruschetta with truffle pesto, mushrooms and mozzarella. Bruschetta is a fairly standard item to have on any Italian menu, but it’s good to get away from the default setting of having tomatoes and basil smothered over the garlicky toasted bread.

Everything at Café Domenico’s is geared towards the diner, the chef being more than happy to come out and intricately explain each dish and seek the views of the evening’s clientele. The three-man staff set-up seem to intuitively understand the desires and needs of each table which lends itself to an ambience of friendly bonhomie.

While starter portions are large, main courses are, frankly, enormous. It might be wise to take out a second mortgage on your stomach before coming here. Robin’s seafood stew is a massive cauldron of vibrant red broth filled with fish and crustaceans. I go for the sirloin beef on blue cheese ravioli in a creamy tomato sauce. It’s almost too much, two colossal repasts on one plate. I have a slight niggle that the meat, which I had requested medium rare, has barely a trace of pink inside. The ravioli is excellent, however, although the sheer size of the plateful somewhat dramatically accelerates the eating process into a major undertaking.

M’s mountainous portion of pasta with olives, sundried tomatoes and goats’ cheese is left half-finished. Nothing to do with the quality of the dish, I must add, just that she sensibly declares herself finished when she’s had enough. Unlike myself as I plough remorselessly through my gargantuan steak and ravioli, jaws aching and sweat forming on my brow. Even the sprinkled offerings of pepper and parmesan are huge.

Desserts are traditional Italian fare of tiramisu, although ever a glutton for gastro-punishment I decide to try the ice cream sundae. It finally defeats me. An absolute mountain of ice cream in a tall glass bowl similar to the type American teenagers used to eat in the 1950s’ before going off for a calorie-depleting drag race.

If you like good, proper Italian food and you like lots of it along with friendly service and plenty of character, then I can’t recommend Café Domenico’s enough. You might want to spend the next day on a diet of water and wafers, but it’ll be worth it. This is a lovely small place with super-sized authentic fare at a very reasonable cost.