Saturday, 22 October 2016
da Mara, Cyncoed, Cardiff Italian restaurant review
One of the proudest moments of my 33 years on this planet was seeing my name in print as Wales’s regional “expert” in Where to Eat Pizza, Phaidon’s guide to the world’s best pizza, which was published earlier this year .
If I never see my name in a publication again I’ll die a happy man. Even if it means my food-based re-working of JD Salinger’s classic, Gherkin in the Rye, never sees the light of day.
One of Wales’s esteemed pizzerias which made it into the guide was Anatoni’s in Cyncoed. Their Neapolitan style wood-fired pizza oven was a thing of beauty and so were their pizzas.
However, an unfortunate coincidence meant that Anatoni’s relaunched and rebranded as da Mara in pretty much the same week as the book was released. As a result, pizza lovers from around the world arriving in Cardiff on the back of the book may well be wondering whatever happened to Anatoni’s?
Thankfully, the Anatoni's team are still very much involved in running da Mara.
They’ve also got a brand new hand built wood-fired Steffano Ferrara pizza oven which they’ve imported from Naples.
And, I’m delighted to report that their pizzas are better than ever.
As part of their relaunch, da Mara gained an alcohol license and expanded their menu to include pastas, meat and fish dishes.
Ice cold Sardinian Ichnusa lager (£3.80) and a Peroni red (£3.80) were knocked back with ease.
Linguine ai frutti di mare (£7.75) comprised of al dente pasta, tender squid, salty clams and plump cherry tomatoes in a sauce packed with garlic, chilli, parsley and tomato. It was marred slightly by shrivelled mussels and a couple of rogue pieces of broken shell in the sauce.
Something as simple as a tricolore salad (£6.95) lives or dies by the quality of its ingredients. In this case, some of them were a bit of a let down. Creamy buffalo mozzarella, crispy parma ham and basil infused olive oil were all excellent. But, tomatoes lacked flavour whilst avocado slices were disappointingly underripe.
Onto the main event, and our pizzas were both humdingers.
The leopard spotted cornicione (rim), the light base with a delicate chew, the fresh tomato sauce made with San Marzanos and the creamy mozzarella were all on the nail.
Mrs G’s was topped with potent, unctuous nduja sausage (£9.95).
My carrettiera (£11.95) was topped with Anise twanged sausage, wilted spinach and the light warmth of chilli.
My dessert was pretty average. A couple of runny cream filled profiteroles (£3.75) were enrobed in a tiramisu-like topping flavoured very lightly with hazelnut and served with a pot of cream on the side. It was all just a bit creamy.
In contrast, a couple of scoops of stracciatella and hazelnut ice cream (£3) were both beautifully smooth and had bags of flavour.
A trip to da Mara is undoubtedly worth it to try their excellent pizzas alone.
On this showing, the rest of their menu is a bit more of a mixed bag.
Address - da Mara, 25 Clear Water Way, Lakeside, Cardiff, CF23 6DL
Web - http://www.damaracardiff.co.uk/
Telephone - 02920 765419