Spaghetti Bolognese; lasagne; garlic bread; pepperoni pizza and tagliatelli carbonara.
There’s no evidence of any of these Italian restaurant clichés on the menu at Casanova’s and this was the first of a number of signs that Mrs G and I were in for a treat......Other good omens included:
A couple of other Cardiff based foodies I’d spoken to over the course of last week were pretty vehement that Casanova is the best Italian restaurant in Cardiff.
The first page of Casanova’s menu announces with pride the quality and seasonality of the produce they use. Organic vegetables are supplied locally from St Hilary riverside market garden; Welsh salt marsh lamb is supplied by J.T.Morgan and fresh fish is bought in from Ashton’s.
Finally from the beginning to the end of the evening the service we received was friendly and knowledgeable. One of the owners Luca spoke to us passionately about the business he has built up with his 2 Italian business partners since 2005 and the produce (salamis, wines, oils etc) they buy direct from suppliers in Italy.
Casanova's evening menu is £18 for 2 courses of £24 for 3 courses.
Amuse bouche – Artichoke puree – A dainty little bowl of smooth and earthy Jerusalem artichoke soup drizzled with truffle oil and crisp shoestring potatoes. A lovely start to the meal, this little mouth pleaser demonstrated we weren’t about to eat a bog standard Italian meal.
Starter - Pancetta Arrosto - Slow roast pork belly with black pudding, lentils, baked apple and rosemary oil. Every texture, flavour and aroma worked together perfectly. This is the kind of dish I wish I could knock up in my own kitchen; plenty of meat and bags of flavour.
Starter - Scallop served with chickpea fritter and fennel salad. The beautifully sweet scallop and sharply dressed fennel salad were a perfect marriage. The crisp chickpea fritter was good but I felt it overpowered the delicateness of the scallop. In my opinion another scallop wouldn’t have gone amiss too (especially in light of the £3 supplement on the menu for this dish).
Main - Lamb ragu served with Calabrian pasta and dried ricotta. A supremely meaty sauce scattered with chunks of lamb coated every orifice of the al dente pasta. The creamy dried ricotta was a nice change from the sometimes overwhelming parmesan.
Main - Cassuoela – A traditional Milanese stew jam packed with melt in the mouth pieces of pork shoulder, a coarse cut sausage (heavily seasoned with aniseed), slices of carrot and Savoy cabbage all brought together by a flavoursome vegetable and white wine stock. These humble ingredients combined to produce a dish of regal proportions. This is the kind of wintery comfort food I’d happily eat any night of the week in this frosty weather.
All in the name of reviewing we pushed through the pudding pain barrier.
Tiramisu – I’d heard great things about Casanova’s tiramisu and it didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t on the menu but a brief enquiry later and a plate of the good stuff arrived. With sponge soaked with plenty of booze and quality coffee, rich shards of dark chocolate and plenty of cream and cocoa powder what isn’t there to love?
Torta Caprese –Crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside, this traditional Italian chocolate and almond cake reminded of a gooey chocolate nut brownie. It was served with a nutty chocolate sauce and smooth (homemade tasting) vanilla gelato. Bang on.
Maintaining a fairly low key profile in the Cardiff dining scene, it’s pretty clear Casanova are ticking over happily based on word of mouth. However, in my view they deserve a far higher profile than some of the more famous Cardiff Italian restaurants. If you want to eat some food a little closer to the kind of thing you'd get in Italy then I'd strongly suggest a visit.
Casanova, 13 Quay Street, Cardiff, CF10 1EA
Telephone - 02920344044