Italian restaurants, there is no shortage of them. Walk along a parade of restaurants and I can guarantee you most will be serving Italian food. With all these Italian choices can there really be much scope in the food served? What comes to mind when I say Italian cuisine? *Gino DiCampo was my first thought :)*; Second, more realistic thought – pizza and pasta. With so many Italian chains, what makes one a cut above the rest?
Hot on the newly refurbished restaurant scene, Woking has welcomed Carluccio’s. Modern, glass fronted exterior and spacious floor plan with a view into the kitchen at the rear of the restaurant. I’ve been to a few beforehand but they certainly weren’t as snazzy. I must question though what is with the long bench seat tables squished together nightmare that they insist on placing you if there are just 2 diners? The tables are so incredibly close together that you are practically dining and conversing with the couple either side, and getting up and out whilst consciously being aware your derrière or handbag is about to knock over their glass of wine, its a stress and embarrassment I could frankly do without!! If they took a table away (god forbid) and spaced them out a bit more, perfecto, problem solved.
The menu is quite extensive, you can opt for the fixed price menu or take a pick from the specials or Gluten Free options. Choices choices choices. What to have? First off a glass of Prosecco (£4.95) (obviously) and as soon as I spied Venison there was no changing my mind on what was for the main! Tortelloni Di Cervo (£9.35) – handmade fresh tortelloni filled with wine braised venison for me, and for my dining companion, Bistecca Di Bue Con Palate (£14.75) aka Chargrilled Rib Eye steak, rosemary potatoes and tarragon mayonnaise and Insalata Mista (£3.95), a mixed salad. Refreshingly Carluccio’s promises everything is prepared using the best fresh natural ingredients and where possible from Italy, they are already onto a winner with this. From ordering to plate arriving on the table it felt like no time at all.
The tortelloni was perfectly cooked, just enough bite and spot on with the ratio of pasta to filling; don’t you hate it when its all pasta and no filling! I was wary the filling would not do the venison justice and to be frank if I had not read it was wine braised, I would not have guessed on taste alone. That aside it was delicious, surprisingly filling and I would order it again.
The steak cooked to liking (rare) lacked a touch of seasoning yet the tarragon mayo made up for it. The dish could have done with some veggies to make it a complete meal, but with the mixed salad it was filling enough. Opinion was divided on the rosemary potatoes. Personally from looks alone I’d have said they had been sat there a while before service, they did not have their usual crisp clean cut skin you’d expect and were a little lack lustre. My fellow dinner on the other hand thought the polar opposite and cleared the plate.
In my opinion you could have the most exquisite food in the world yet if the customer service isn’t up to par the whole experience is tainted. For Carluccio’s I have to say I have had better customer service. It’s not that our waiter was rude, it just felt like he would rather be anywhere else than here. It wasn’t so bad I would not return, but definitely room for improvement. Food wise I can’t complain, a little pricey here and there but it was delicious and authentic, with plenty of choice for an Italian lover. There were plenty of traditional dessert choices, pana cotta, affogato and tiramisu, but for the home of gelato I was disappointed by their selection.
What do I love about Carluccio’s more than other Italian chains? It has a completely different vibe to all others? The Italian deli is a marvellous idea. You name an Italian staple and they will sell it. In fact I defy you to take a look at the goods on offer and not be able to buy a single thing. I for one could not leave without their Amaretti biscuits. They are de-lici-ous! Crisp, almondy yet soft in the middle. It is a miracle I haven’t inhaled the box already!
Nibbles ‘n’ Scribbles x