What’s the sign of an authentic Italian restaurant? Certainly not candles stuck in chianti bottles or red checked tablecloths, neither of which I hasten to add were on display in the establishment where I recently lunched.
For me, the sign of the genuine article is one where I’m forced to mumble what I want to the waiter and point at the menu. Yes, my Italian pronunciation is about as good as my French/German/Spanish, despite the valiant attempts of the teaching staff at Falkirk High School – a very long time ago admittedly.
Nestled in the middle of Easter Road, just a stone’s throw from the football ground, owner Graziano Spano and his dedicated team at Al Dente want to provide the culinary delights and ambiance that you would find in a traditional restaurant in his homeland or as he puts it, “the true Italian experience in Edinburgh”,
From the warm welcome to the handshakes and message that they hoped to see us again as we left, you were made to feel like a very special guest.
It was a very relaxing experience, certainly a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.
The menu changes with the seasons and the autumn choices are about to be unveiled soon, but we were choosing from the summer selection.
We settled on light puff pastry with goat cheese and Parma ham or Sfoglia al caprino e prosciutto to give its proper name and baked figs topped with Gorgonzola, wrapped in Parma ham (Fichi al forno).
Both were elegantly presented and tasted delicious, but the main courses were definitely the star attractions.
Tagliatelle with salmon and rocket in a tangy lemon sauce (Tagliatelle al salmone con rucola e limone) sounds like a simple dish and it was, but its star quality was in being cooked to perfection.
The speciality Paccheri al Branzino – fresh pasta tubes with sea bass puree served with mussels and king prawns in a light seafood sauce – looked amazing and I’m assured it tasted even better. But I can’t confirm because the plate was cleared in an instant without me even getting the chance to try!
Graziano seemed disappointed that we hadn’t tested his kitchen skills with one of the wonderful soundings mains including sirloin steak stuffed with Parma ham and cheese with porcini mushroom sauce or roulade of grilled swordfish steaks stuffed with pine nuts, breadcrumbs, lemon zest and raisins.
However, we did find room for his light version of the traditional tiramsu – ladyfinger biscuits soaked in limoncello and topped with raspberries and lemon mascarpone cream. Bellissmo – one visit and I’m picking up the language already!
Al Dente, 139 Easter Road, Edinburgh, EH7 5QA. To book a table, call 0131 652 1932 or visit www.al-dente-restaurant.co.uk.
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