Restaurant review: Bistro Romano, Cleadon Village
A last-minute change of plan saw us eating out at Bistro Romano in Cleadon Village, instead of the Happy Organic café directly across the road. Both establishments are owned by a section of the Minchella family, a famed name in these parts for their family ice cream business.
We were in the vicinity that day, and to be fair, we’d have been happy lunching at either eaterie. But a decision to have a more hearty substantial lunch – a ‘set-yourself-up-for-the-week’ affair – made us opt for Romano’s.
Bistro Romano is owned by Romano and brother Paolo, while Romano’s daughter Luisa runs cool café, Happy Organic, with its relaxed healthy-eating vibe.
Romano’s in Cleadon has been going strong since 1999. And it has a very good reputation for its fine dining Italian offerings.
The Monday lunchtime we were dining there was a smattering of diners – but enough noise and background chat to make it a convivial atmosphere. Our seat by the window, with the sun streaming in, helped lend a holiday feel to lunch.
The interior is fresh and contemporary, with parquet flooring and smartly-laid tables dressed in crisp white linen table cloths, with fresh flowers. Walls of framed black and white photos of the family, captured through the generations, are a talking point.
There may not be pizza on the menu, somewhat of a novelty for an Italian restaurant, but that’s not a bad thing. We chose from the a la carte menu – although there was a light lunch menu too – and spent far too long dithering over possibilities. Glasses of delicate Mannara rose made it all the more tricky to focus. This was to be a leisurely lunch, we decided!
Starters include the likes of oak-smoked salmon, scallops, and Parma ham and melon. Mains include everything from sea bream, sirloin steak, braised daube of beef and roast chicken supreme to pasta and risotto dishes
A selection of warm breads (delicious focaccia and seedy wholemeal among them) with excellent quality extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, set the ball rolling in style.
To start, I chose the four cheese and leek tart with dressed leaves salad, £7.50. A great choice this, the pastry was beautifully buttery and crumbly, the cheese filling rich and flavoursome. It was a very generously-sized portion – and a tasty new addition to the menu. Across the table, my husband’s choice of deep-fried king prawns in beer batter with mixed leaves and tartare sauce, £11.90, was another top-notch dish and like a meal in itself.
The beer batter encasing the prawns was incredibly light and crisp, Moretti the brew of choice, I’m told.
My main of spaghetti carbonara, £10.90 – always a measure of a great Italian restaurant if they can get this classic dish right – was spot on. The sauce enveloping the pasta, which was cooked with just the right bite, was rich, creamy, and well seasoned, pancetta morsels cutting through the creaminess, making it all very moreish.
My husband’s choice of baked salmon, £19.90, with tomato-based sauce, sauteed potatoes and asparagus spears was an equally accomplished dish. The meaty piece of salmon was soft and moist, and the sauce which included capers, garlic and anchovies complemented it perfectly, without overpowering the salmon. A little more pricey, admittedly, but for cooking of this quality you really don’t begrudge it.
Quality ingredients were used in every dish – all of which were generously portioned. The skillful cooking shone through and every dish was attractively presented too, so everything looked so appetising.
We dipped into each other’s desserts. My choice a warming autumnal gooseberry and apple crumble surrounded by a moat of crème anglaise. This had a crumble base and sides and perfectly tangy fruity centre. I highly recommend. While, across the table, Minchella’s own Turkish Delight ice cream with chocolate sauce, was deemed a hit. And it really did have that delicate rose flavour.
This was a lunch to start the week in style – and ditch all thoughts of diets… It was all done with the greatest of care – and a big serving of Italian flair.
Bistro Romano, 63 Front Street, Cleadon Village, Sunderland SR6 7PG. Tel: 0191 519 1747 www.bistroromano.co.uk