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Review: Home away from home-for me it is Al Dente!
Sunshine and showers, a classic theme of this summer almost made me wilt, I mean, being Italian I am used to proper summer weather and this year this was amiss… never mind, I was able to find some warmth and sun (plate sized!) in a corner of Easter Road, about 6/7 minutes on foot from the London Road, at Al Dente. Graziano Spano is the chef/proprietor of this small gem, tucked in toward the stadium, and really treats his customers like stars, yet also as good friends.
Charmed by his front of the house staff, I made my way to my table and spread my newspaper while sipping on good House wine (really nice and refreshing Verduzzo!) and perusing the menu which is surprisingly wide and a mixture of dishes from various regional areas. The starters range from vegetable bruschetta to figs wrapped in Parma ham to mussels cooked with a hint of orange (and they do smell like that, I assure you, since the people next to me ordered them!) and also comprise traditional fare of ravioli and less conventional combinations, like finocchi (fennel bulbs) au gratin, but Italian style.
First courses of pasta are especially inviting… I was drawn as a good veggie toward the gnocchi with asparagus and courgettes which populate a very veggie friendly list (also containing cannelloni and radicchio and mushroom sformato), but then went for an off carte–will tell you later. Non veggies, you are going to be pampered! Paccheri al branzino (a type of white fish), risotto with squid ink and salmon tagliatelle with rucola, as well as the ever perfect pescatora pasta will delight fish lovers, whereas those more attracted to meat will be happy tasting the lasagna.
The main courses are especially interesting and bear witness to Graziano’s love for Italian regional cookery: again, fish is a real main stay of his offering, and I suppose that it is not a surprise since he’s from a great harbour city, Bari. Swordfish (pesce spada), branzino and merluzzo (small cod) feature in surprising and attractive settings of vegetables and herbs; however, I think Graziano deserves great praise for bringing agnello (lamb) alla Romana (roman style) to his guests! Rome is my city as you know, and to see this, well it just delights my heart… not to mention seeing it coming out of the kitchen–looked like my Mum’s offering, freshly made and cooked on the spot, a real marvel!
Coming to me… after much mulling, I must confess I went for simple things, vegetable bruschette, two topped with tomatoes and garlic and one each topped with roasted aubergine and cannellini beans were my starter which I truly enjoyed and then here it comes, proof that this is THE place for fine, yet fresh and unpretentious and really authentic Italian cookery… a really amazing plate of penne arrabbiata, a perfect balance of chilli, garlic and a light sautee of onion and tomato. I really cherished this plate of pasta, and I know it may seem simple, too simple, but hey–I think it really shows the wholesome nature of Al Dente. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce finely balanced.
I was stuffed by the end of this but incredibly happy and ready to close the evening with a small glass of limoncello, a real treat!
What else to add? I am a Roman lass and please do take my word for it–Al Dente is the real thing, freshly made, on the spot and genuine Italian cooking served in cosy and lovely surroundings. Graziano was very hospitable and came for a chat: he said that the premises had always been a restaurant and it was only fitting that Easter Road should retain them as such, in my mind. He sources his produce carefully in Granton and Musselburgh and has his suppliers for all these delicacies that we Italians cannot live without too .
I left Al Dente reluctantly, as the last orders were coming out… with a heart filled with sunshine as well as with a fine meal. I really hope that you Edinburgh dwellers out there will give Al Dente a try–as I said, a corner of Italy on Easter Road… what else can you ask for?
139 Easter Road Edinburgh
Tel: 0131 – 6521 932
Tuesday to Saturday 12.00noon – 2.00pm
Monday to Saturday
5.30pm – 10.00pm
This review was made possible thanks to Crimson Edge PR
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