In light of J getting a promotion at work and as a result being invited to our senior lawyers conference in Rome (something she was ridiculously excited about despite me pointing out the inside of a large chain hotel is much the same be it in Slough or Rome – at which point I was accused of being a killjoy, which I couldn’t deny), we decided lunch at an Italian was appropriate.
We were all set for Cafe Citta, which consistently rides high in the Tripadviser rankings for Cardiff and which we both like, until I happened upon the rather nice looking Spring lunch menu at a place called Casanova, which at £12 for two courses looked pretty good value.
As we had already lunched at Cafe Citta (and jolly good it was too) somewhere new to both of us, in the form of Casanova, was the agreed choice.
Casanova really seems to operate under the radar. The frontage is, umm, not exactly welcoming with a padlock hanging off the door and no ability to look inside. If there hadn’t been an open sign on display I would have assumed it was closed. I have walked passed it many times without giving it a second thought and on asking in the office no one has really heard of it, let alone eaten there.
On, however, looking at Tripadvisor it seemed to have a loyal following and I also noted that Gourmet Gorro (the daddy of Cardiff food bloggers) had given it a rather good write up a while back. We therefore persevered and went though the rather unwelcoming door.
On entering, we were pleasantly surprised to find the place was buzzing with all the tables downstairs either taken or reserved. We were promptly approached by a waitress who asked if we had booked and when we confirmed (both thinking, bugger) we hadn’t she asked if we were OK eating upstairs (phew!).
On being seated we were given menus, the wine list (sadly not needed), bread (with decent olive oil and balsamic vinegar ) and somewhat bizarrely peanuts (maybe they had ran out of olives) to nibble on. I ate them and the bread whilst J told me about her latest insane fitness thing called Wolf Pack – which as far as I could ascertain involved paying someone to shout at you when you are not wading through a mud lake fast enough -gosh, I though, where do I sign up!!!
The lunch menu was reassuringly short comprising of 4 starters and 5 mains (al a carte was available, but we were there for the £12 lunch) and was not your bog standard UK Italian fare, with no sign of carbonara or lasagna.
For starters, I went for the sardines with sweet and sour onions and J went for chilli black pudding with pear chutney.
My sardine dish was pleasant enough, with decent flavours. The sardines were nice and fresh and the onions were actually quite sweet rather than the advertised sweet and sour. The dish came with sultanas and the idea of these was, I suspect, to act as a counterpoint to the sour onions. As the onions were already quite sweet the addition of the very sweet sultanas made it a bit too sweet for me. It was nice and of course I ate it all, but it would have been better without the sultanas in my view (J – who has a sweeter tooth than me – on the other hand quite liked the addition of the sultanas so it was very much a case of horses for starter courses).
J’s black pudding was cooked just right, crisp on the outside and soft on inside with a good flavour and a fair kick of chilli. It went well with the accompanying pear chutney which cut nicely through the richness of the black pudding.
Both portions were generous for a fixed price lunch menu.
For mains, J went for the marinated pork chop and boy was it a whooper when it arrived.
J pronounced her pork as lovely and I did initially suffer a bit of food envy. I had a taste and the marinade had resulted in a very tasty and moist piece of meat with a lovely back note flavour of aniseed that worked really well against the flavour of the pork. It came with a good looking salad which including some earthy beetroot and J said there was a nice mustardy dressing on it. All in all a very impressive fixed price menu dish. J polished it all off but was too demure to gnaw on the bone and refused to pass it over to me to do so despite my protestations that she was wasting the best bit.
I had considered going for the pork chop, but on seeing a pasta dish with n’duja (a fiery Calabrian salami which is the consistency of a thick paste which I have heard of but not tried) I quickly decided on that (J having beaten me to the punch on the pork chop).
What turned up was not the prettiest, but boy was it tasty.
The pasta (not 100% sure, but think it was casarecce) was cooked just right with a nice bite to it and came with a rich tomato sauce with a generous amount of the n’juda though it. The sauce had a lovely porkiness to it followed by a good hit of heat from the chilli in the n’juda, which worked really well with the sweetness of the base tomato sauce. The sauce was of a consistency whereby it nicely coated each piece of the pasta. I enjoyed this a lot particularly the spicy chilli hit provided by the n’juda (I will be looking out for this stuff in delis – can seen it spread thick on toast). Again it was a very generous portion for a fixed price lunch menu.
Whilst we were offered puddings (the lunch offer is £12 for 2 course, £16 for 3) we were both stuffed and time was ticking on. If you are restricted to an hour max for lunch you may be pushing it eating here if it is busy (on the other hand on a Saturday).
We enjoyed our meal here, which was both tasty and good value. The n’juda was a revelation and J’s pork chop a monster in size with a good flavour to it . The only bum note was the rather flat and insipid colas that we had (fat for me and diet for J). Iced water was provided in a bottle and I wish we had just stuck to that. Whilst we didn’t need the wine list I had a look and at a quick glance it seemed to be exclusive Italian containing some interesting (both northern and southern Italian) bottles which were not too pricey.
The bill with tip came to just over £30. Not a cheap lunch by any means, but very good value for what we got. I didn’t need to eat in the evening (but of course I did :mrgreen:).
Would I go again? Most definitely and I can thank Casanova for introducing me to the delights of n’juda ( something I think I could become quite addicted to).
In answer to the question in the title of this post “Yes, despite a somewhat unattractive facade, beauty is indeed more than skin deep and I was duly wooed by Casanova”.
13 Quay Street
Tel No: 02920 344044
Website : http://www.casanovacardiff.co.uk