‘AUTHENTIC Italian food at sensible prices’ - that’s the pledge to diners about to take on the Carluccio’s experience.
But, let’s be honest, this is the aim of every Italian restaurant competing for your business. So what is it that makes this venue in Stratford stand out in the crowd?
This pleasantly situated restaurant in Waterside boasts some of the best views in Bard country for a start. And on a sunny day (not that we were so blessed!) it doesn’t get much better than a satisfying meal al fresco just a few footsteps from Stratford’s famous River Avon.
‘Settling’ for the spacious and comfortable interior though was no hardship and my family and I were soon made to feel very welcome by the team.
We were quick to notice their emphasis on hospitality and our hosts were happy to chat as well as share their extensive knowledge of the Italian food on the menu.
Talking of which, there was a wide and tempting selection to suit all palates, from pasta and meat dishes to antipasti and salads. We did not feel as though we were being rushed at all (as I’ve too often experienced in a busy restaurant) being tempted instead to take our time over those all-important decisions while grazing on one of their bread baskets.
My Tomato Bruschetta starter (£5.50) was a light and tasty choice to whet my appetite for the Lamb alla Griglia (£16.50) which was to follow. These tender lamb chops were chargrilled and drizzled with mint pesto and served with roast potatoes. Beautifully cooked cuts of meat with tasty accompaniments. I did not regret my choice.
And neither did my husband whose Sicilian Arancini starter (£5.95) and Seafood Linguine (£14.75) were complimented upon as they were being polished off. Prawns, mussels and clams tossed in a rich and spicy tomato, crab and chilli sauce with baby plum tomatoes and fresh basil, was a hearty dish with a delicious combination of flavours.
My sons who always opt for pizza in Italian restaurants, were forced to expand their culinary horizons and soon never gave it a second thought. The Chicken Saltimboca (chicken escalope topped with 14-month aged prosciuitto Gran Sasso and sage with white wine sauce and served with roasted tossed potatoes in pesto and rocket – £15.50) soon became a new favourite!
There is also a new range of veggie and vegan dishes on offer plus an extensive selection of gluten-free and dairy-free options. This has to be one of the best places for those with restricted diets.
As you would expect, there is a tempting array of delicious desserts, from Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding (I can vouch for this!) and Chocolate and Rum Fudge cake to Panna Cotta and Lemon Tart.
But for the younger – and generally fussier – diners, there’s some more familiar favourites on offer, including the chance to exercise some control (what child doesn’t want to do that!) by creating their own pasta dish – even down to the shape of the pasta! A lovely idea.
Although not something we sampled, Carluccio’s newest menu offering is its breakfast range. Take a look at the Stratford menus by visiting www.carluccios.com/menus
So, ‘authentic Italian food at sensible prices’? It’s all cooked completely fresh and has a strong reputation for its authenticity. Prices are par for the course around here. From £5.50 to £7.50 (Prawns Marinara) for a starter and £10.50 to £17.50 (Steak alla Griglia) for a main.
In my opinion, whether you would regard them as ‘sensible’ really depends on your expectations from the Carluccio’s experience. But, based on ours, I’d say it was worth every penny.