Being invited to check out a restaurant for whatever reason is always a pleasure. Whether it’s a new launch, a new event or in this case a new menu and revamp of a local establishment that has been there for many a year. Usually Lauren and I can travel to and from these venues with good time, whenever possible walking off a great meal and wine on the way home. This particular place however was a little further afield and probably not somewhere we would normally venture out to, but having said that it is rather straight forward to get to route wise. Just the one tube from our flat; but it does take almost an hour. So it was off to Uxbridge we went and dine at Nonna Rosa to sample their authentic and regional Italian foods on offer.
Lauren, being the New Yorker that she is, thinks she knows Italian food. I’ll probably get into trouble for this (again) but Italian food, for me anyway, in New York is not really Italian. It may have the similar attributes and ingredients but like most things it has been very much Americanised. I am not saying this is bad, I’ve had many a great ‘Italian’ meal with family and friends across the pond but what I really like is the authenticity and romance of real Italian cuisine and this is just what I was hoping for from this review.
Nonna Rosa (@NonnaRosaItalia) is located on Uxbridge High Street, just a short walk north from the station. Uxbridge may not look like the most exciting place in the world but don’t be put off or even stereotype any of its local businesses as once you reach Nonna Rosa you are immediately transported to somewhere more vibrant and exquisite. The entrance is central to adjourning periodic windows (the building was constructed before Oliver Cromwell’s residence here in the 15th century) and as you walk up the step and into the restaurant you suddenly witness the beautiful exposed beams (the ceiling beams are original) and the contemporary walls of stone and brickwork. The decorations are minimal and simple but not at all trying to be anything that it isn’t like many so called ‘trendy’ places around. I have to say though it was pretty cool indeed. It is very spacious and inviting downstairs and upstairs it also hosts a larger seating area with a bar and a separate private dining section. There is also an open roof top terrace incase the British sunshine decides to ever join us.
All of this makes the restaurant very welcoming on it own but also the staff greeted us with warmth and gratitude that didn’t go unnoticed. They quickly checked our reservation and took us to our table and provided us with the standard menu and the specials for today. I didn’t need the printed specials menu at hand as I was sat in the best seat in the house with a wonderful view of the large specials chalk board on the wall in front of me… and more importantly of course, I had Lauren to look at.
So as I gazed mesmerised into…. the specials board (and Lauren’s eyes) we discussed the restaurant’s new menu in front of us and what we should try (the menu has been designed by chef Brian Scully whose previous experience includes high-end restaurants such as Daphne’s, The Ivy and working alongside George Locatelli) . The menu was simple but full with just the right amount of dishes on display. Each dish showing its own individuality and authenticness to the Italian influences of Nonna Rosa (whoever she might have been). We also had a separate menu dedicated to their stone baked pizzas with such toppings as fennel salami, clams, calamari, mussels, spicy chicken and all the usual bits and pieces under a layer of San Marzano tomato. For us however, it was the Antipasti and Pesce/Carne options that we were after.
The Antipasti consisted of Italian breads, cured meats, misto dishes, soups and seafood’s such as the Fritto Misto (whitebait, squid, prawns). After looking at all these delights we settled for starters of Chargrilled Squid with rocket, chilli and lemon and also one of our favourite Italian treats that we discovered in Venice a little while ago, Aranchini. Aranchini are wonderfully flavoured balls of risotto deep-fried into a crispy, deliciously round goodness. These ones incorporated wild mushrooms and a truffle mascarpone.
Chargrilled squid, rocket, chilli, lemon
The squid was wonderfully cooked and the dish looked very bright and vibrant. The ingredients were so fresh and colourful it was almost a shame to spoil the display. I did however manage to resist admiring it for any longer and so we eagerly got stuck in. The texture of the seafood was perfect and not at all chewy. It was definitely chargrilled and you could really taste the barbequed type flavours coming from its scorched flesh. For me it might have just been a little too burnt in flavour, but when mixed with the spiciness of the chillies and acidic tang of the lemon juice (and a drizzle of requested olive oil) it brought it down a notch and tasted great. Lauren didn’t agree with my thoughts and said it was just delicious with or without its accompaniments. If anything I would have liked a little sweetness added to it but that is just a personal desire and in all honesty I wouldn’t hesitate in ordering this again. We soon cleaned the plate!
Wild Mushroom Aranchini, Truffle Mascarpone
Next up was the Aranchini balls. Wow, we do love these and the Nonna Rosa offerings did not let down our aspirations. The balls were nice and crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. The rich, soft and sticky rice was revealed as we literally ‘cracked’ open these large egg sized Italian wonders. The wild mushrooms were nicely chopped into fine bits and incorporated into the risotto just to my liking (I’m not a big mushroom fan usually). With each fork full of rice I spread a little of the delicious mascarpone onto it and the cheesy tart taste cut through the amazingly strong savoury flavours of the Aranchini. The mascarpone had just the right amount of truffle infused with it. Too much and you really know about it, too little and you wouldn’t even know, so to have just the correct medley of intensity from the truffle flavour is a great skill and here it was created magnificently.
Nonna Rosa’s have lots of various pasta’s and risottos on offer that come with fresh seafood, meats and vegetables. These consist of smoked salmon, clams, Tuscan sausages, wild mushrooms and lots more. There are dishes of hand filled ravioli, Lasagne al forno di carne as well as Farfelle, Rigatoni, Penne and others. Then there is the PESCE / CARNE which has nine plates of various meats and fishes all cooked in their own individual ways. There is beef, veal, pork belly, chicken, lamb, sea bass, salmon and a fish stew. There is also of course the specials board I mentioned that had another host of delicious dishes on offer such as mussels, scallops, crab and a T-bone steak. All of these come from some of the finest sources around and fresh in daily.
Something on the set menu that caught my eye was a dish I have not seen for a long time on any menu. It is something I used to have cooked for me some years ago and had completely forgotten about, until now that is. The dish I chose off the menu was the Fillet of Beef Rossini, fried crouton, pate and a red wine sauce. This is a proper old school dish and I couldn’t wait to get this in front of me, so without much hesitation I ordered my meal, rare.
Lauren, still as much addicted to her new found shellfish freedom as she was two years ago when she had the lifetime ban lifted by her doctors, ordered the special of scallops. A special of tagliatelle, Scallops, Pancetta and parsley to be more precise. So with the mains ordered we sat, talked and drank through a delicious bottle of red that we had ordered.
Fillet of beef Rossini, fried crouton, pate, red wine sauce
When my dish arrived and was put down in front of me I couldn’t believe my eyes. A big slab of beef fillet and a door wedge sized slice of pâté were balanced on top of a small fried loaf, sorry, crouton. It looked amazing and I couldn’t wait to see how it tasted. The steak was butter like and cooked to perfection. It melted away and was smothered in the rich red wine sauce. The smooth liver pâté just added to the lavish tastes and textures that were going on and brought my memories flooding back to the first time I had this dish. The huge crouton was, if anything a little under fried and not as solid or crisp as I would have liked, but then what could withstand the vast amount of delicious juices and gravy that it was soaking up. I was so glad I opted for this dish and although it was hard to decide with all the other great options Nonna Rosa had, I would probably order this again and again. Sometimes in life you relive an old memory, like an old video game you used to play or a favourite old movie you once watched only to be hugely disappointed and let down as today’s technologies and such have raised your standards. You can actually have that golden memory slightly tarnished afterwards and regret revisiting the experience, well this was not the case with the Rossini.
Fresh Tagliatelle, Scallops, Pancetta and parsley
When Lauren’s dish arrived it was beautiful and looked like a rainbow of culinary colours. It was a mass of fresh handmade pasta that was so wide and flat that just a few ribbons seemed to engulf the plate underneath. Tangled up and around an array of seared scallops and smoky pancetta, the meal was just asking to have a fork stuck in and swizzled around. It tasted as good as it looked and was so light and delicate it was hard to chew it, not in a bad way but in a way that it could have easily just slide down the palate. The scallops were very sweet and soft and cooked to perfection with a nice outer glaze. The fresh cut parsley gave it a great earthy note against the tastes of the sea and pork. Finished off with some fine olive oil this dish was a complete success and rightly billed as a ‘Special’.
After all the food we had eaten we were almost full. But not full enough to ignore the delights from the dessert menu. With the usual Italian sweets on offer (Tiramisu, Pistachio Ice Cream with Chocolate Tart, Cheesecake and Gelato’s) we opted for the plate of Italian Cheese & Biscuits as well as the Pannacotta with Summer Berries.
Pannacotta with Summer Berries
Just as I wished the creamy pannacotta was firm and solid with a slight wobble. The set custardy dome was deliciously sweet and very moreish. It was a very rich indulgence, much needed after all the meat and seafood we had eaten. The tangy summer fruit sauce was a great partner and cut through the sweetness perfectly. I was however expecting some actual berries but the fruity syrup worked just as well. Considering the lack of sunshine and the amount of rain this summer has provided I’m sure that must affect the sourcing of our beloved summer fruits.
Italian cheese & Biscuits
The cheese came in a variety of types as you would expect. All of them were very tasty indeed. There was a soft blue, a hardened styled cheese and another soft creamy textured type. Unfortunately the menu did not explain the types and I didn’t get around to asking but it would of been nice to have been told about the origins as the plate was given to us. None the less they were delicious and the walnut and honey that came next to them was perfect and worked great with each cheese. The biscuits were, well, just biscuits really. There wasn’t much to say about them, just that they are your average selection from your average selection box. I’m just being picky now, in fact if I had to give any real flaw to the night we had that would be it, so not really a bad thing in the grand scheme of the things.
When I first arrived at Uxbridge I waited for Lauren who was coming in on a different route. There are a few ways to get the tube into Uxbridge and although billed as London by many, its really in the county of Middlesex. If I was a commuter coming in and out from the city I’m sure I would be a frequent visitor to Nonna Rosa on a regular basis. All in all a great place to dine, i only wish it was more central for us to go again.
Will Yums = ★★★★★★★★ ★★
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