A “welcome” sight on the High Street? Prego Wine Bar, Cardiff City Centre

Prego means “You’re welcome” in Italian and a wine bar in Cardiff city centre is always a welcome sight for an oenophile such as me.

Whilst my wine collection tends to concentrate on Spanish wines, Italy offer a majestic and varied range of wines from the Alpine verdant green far North all the way down to semi arid “Mezzogiorno” South (with loads in between). I am slowly, but surely, building up my stock of these wines.

It is fair to say that there really is a wine for everyone in Italy and there is oodles of quality outside the big boys “Bs” in the form of Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello, as well as the Super Tuscans

The more Italian wine I try the more I like it and the more I want to drink it.

As such an Italian wine bar (with a food offering) sounds right up my street. It is also nice to see a bit of a fight back on the High Street by wine as against the “all conquering” cocktail. They inevitably do negronis here and I sometimes think I may be one of the few people left on the planet who has never had one.

Ask a lost tribe in the highlands of Papua New Guinea about their drinking habits and the response could be “Well, we do all love a cheeky negroni now and then. Care for one on the treehouse balcony? Cin cin and do help yourself to a “long pork” scratching or toe, I mean two. Actually, I stand corrected that is a toe“.

Back to the matter at hand, a day back in the office (normality slowly returning – got to admit it feels rather weird to the extent I seem to have developed a touch of “back to the office” agoraphobia) offered me the opportunity to try the place out.

I didn’t really get a look inside as they seemed to only be doing table service outside on the day (my first visit was just before the rules were relaxed) in question.

I plonked myself down on a squeezed in table

and perused the short menu.

before being told by a very amiable member of the waiting staff what was still on and what they had run out of.

Short menu, with a mix of mainly small plate items and antipasti, but also a couple of pizza and pasta dishes.

Nothing overly complex, it is the Italian way, it looked promising.

Whilst tempted by the antipasti sharing board (oddly there is an individual sharing board – as case of sharing with “me, myself and I” I assume), I love a quality meatball in a good tomato sauce. Alas they was one of the items that was off.

I asked what the pasta special was and was told porcini mushroom ravioli with either a cherry tomato sauce or a parmesan cream.

I liked the sound of the latter and decided that was for me, even though it was a tenner.

Nice dish this, with good pasta (nice and thin) and a earthy mushroom mix in the interior

What really made this dish was the parmesan cream, which had a delightfully rich nuttiness to it.

Being sans Mrs. SF, I was able to deploy the finger to leverage the maximum amount of sauce off the plate.

Good sauce this and overall I really enjoyed the dish.

My only qualm was the £10 price tag, with the portion size (7, not huge, ravioli) seemed to me to be a tad on the mean side for the price tag.

Think for that price it could have come with some bread (which would have been handy to mop up the very good sauce).

On a subsequent visit with Mrs. SF, J and K (J’s cousin) we all shared an antipasti cheese and meat board.

This was a bountiful board for £16, with a basket of bread included, and excellent value for money for the quantity and the decent enough quality of what we had. Star of the show was the mortadella (a hugely underrated cured meat in my opinion)

Strangely the board appeared to be a mix of Italian and Spanish meats and cheeses (unless there are Italian chorizo and manchego clones unbeknown to me), as far as I could tell, but it was none the worst for this. With the breadth of cheese and charcuterie on offer in Italy this was, however, a bit odd to my mind.

The garnish on the board was very much superfluous to requirements I thought. I like a crisp green salad, but this was a little too much stalk and not enough leaf and included frisse, which I can only describe as scratchy in the mouth. Needless to say most of it was left.

Another visit bought the same bountiful cheese and charcuterie board

and some quite good crostini (£5 – again with the unnecessary scratchy garnish).

The drink

The booze is (unsurprisingly) almost entirely focused on that wondrous wine country that is Italy.

I did somewhat chide J for choosing Champagne when she was at the place a few weeks prior to my initial visit, but rowed back on my criticism when I saw the menu only had prosecco or champagne on it fizz wise.

I am not a prosecco fan (I know its fans are legion and I am sure there are some really good ones out there, I just haven’t come across one yet), but I have had a number of very good franciacorta wines (the best Italian fizz in my opinion).

Odd that this place with its Italian focus does champagne, but as far as I could tell not franciacorta (shame that).

Being solo, the extensive by the bottle element of the list was a bit ambitious for me so it was to the per glass element of the list I went.

Bearing in mind the focus on the Sclavia wines on the list (love Campania, with fond memories of holidays on the Amalfi Coast), I initially opted for the Granito (from the little known, at least to me, casavechia grape – love trying new grape varieties).

This (as with my food first choice) was off the menu, so I went instead for what on the menu said was the Tors, Sclavia

I was not (initially at least) convinced that was right, as on looking at the Sclavia web site the Tors only seemed to be a bianco rather than a rosso wine and this was definately a red

I thought this may have been the Sclavia “montecardillo” (from the little known, again to me at least, pallagrello nero grape) – although in hindsight it seems not.

Quite pleasant this, with dark bramble fruits, leathery, earthy notes and a touch of spice.

Bit youthful, perhaps, but it worked well enough with the mushroom ravioli. Not cheap at £7.50 a 175ml glass, but I have paid more for a lot less wine wise in bars and restaurants so I was happy enough.

On our subsequent visit we had a bottle of the montecardillo

and it was certainly didn’t seem to me to be the same wine as I had on my initial visit. It turns out that on that first visit it was a Tors rosso after all, as on a third visit I deliberately enquired about the Tors and was told it comes as a bianco and a rosso wine.

There is also beer (interesting Sardinian number called Ichnuso – bless you – features) and the ubiquitous cocktails – it appears to be illegal these days for any outlet not to sell them (McDonatini anyone?) and there are plenty of soft drink options.

The verdict

I quite liked Prego, which for a wine bore like me offers a decent selection of wines. The food (I generally like to eat with wine, even if it is just nibbles) is pretty good too and great to nibble on with the booze on offer here.

Although I thought the pasta dish was a touch pricey, the antipasti platter was excellent value.

Would I go back? With decent wine and food, I have already made various visits. Personally wouldn’t be at all upset if they ditched the salad garnishes on the platter and crostini (sometime less is more), but bar from that all pretty good.

With Baraceto to visit (looks very nice)

and Casanova around the corner Cardiff’s city centre Italian game is looking strong these days.

The detail

Address: 23 High Street, Cardiff, CF10 1PT

Website: https://pregocardiff.co.uk/