The sweet taste of authenticity
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SURREY is awash with Italian chain restaurants; from Pizza Express and Zizzi to Prezzo and Bella Italia, it seems that most town centres now have one of each.
So what is so special about Carluccio’s?
Well for a start, these are not quite so plentiful.
There are five in Surrey – one each in Woking, Walton, Cobham, Kingston and Reigate.
More significantly, the eatery keeps authentic Italian cooking at its heart and excellent customer service.
The chain was founded in London in 1999 by noted chef and restaurateur Antonio Carluccio who developed his passion for food growing up in the culinary- rich Piedmont region of Italy.
His team visit Italy as often as possible to meet producers, pick olives, taste wine, talk to chefs and immerse themselves in Italian food culture to bring back to the UK.
From the moment my mother and I stepped inside the stylish glass- fronted Woking town centre restaurant, a friendly waitress was only too willing to guide us to our polished table for two.
Carluccio’s is a celebration of Italian cuisine, family and friends and fine wine. This was evident from a menu rich in authentic dishes, from comfort bowls of pasta to elegant plates of meat and fish.
A number of dishes are marked with a blue Antonio Signature stamp, capturing his philosophy of creating food with a minimum of fuss and maximum of flavour.
From bread baked on site to pasta made fresh each morning, this was no ordinary Italian chain.
Calamari, prosciutto, prawns, focaccia, chicken liver pate and sharing plates were among the starters, but we were both drawn to the bruschetta topped with fresh tomato, roasted peppers, basil and oregano (£ 5.50).
Shortly after each receiving our glass of prosecco (£ 4.95), our first courses arrived from the bustling kitchen.
A thick wedge of warm and nutty sliced bread made up the first layer of our starter.
Fresh chunks of tomato and pepper formed a vibrant fruity second layer before the pile was topped with peppery rocket and pungent herbs.
Each bite was so wonderfully fresh and so distinctively Mediterranean.
Taking the time to enjoy good food with the ones you love is the ethos of Italian culture and at Carluccio’s nobody is ever rushed.
The second course of our lazy lunch was just as tempting as our first.
While my mum tucked into a classic heap of spaghetti tossed with lobster, crab, crayfish, fresh tomato, basil and chilli (£ 14.95), I ordered a new dish, Bistecca Di Fesa (£ 16.50).
A tender, grass- fed 7oz pan fried, medium rare rump steak was served on a bed of green beans, cannellini beans, cherry tomatoes and rocket. The flavoursome meat was beautifully sliced and fanned out alongside the bean concoction.
While the beef had a luscious salty crust and a mouth- watering pink middle, the cannellini beans offered a thick creamy bite and the tomatoes a rich and plummy addition.
It was a hearty, wholesome dish and a generous sized lunch. With that in mind we couldn’t squeeze in a dessert, despite the tantalizing sound of tiramisu, panna cotta and lemon tart and chocolate torte.
We reluctantly pulled ourselves from our comfortable chairs and headed for Wolsey Place for a post- lunch shopping trip.
The Woking restaurant is one of five Carluccio’s in Surrey.
Tender, grass- fed 7oz pan fried, medium rare rump steak was served on a bed of green beans, cannellini beans, cherry tomatoes and rocket.
The starter reflected the ethos of Italian culture.
Carluccio’s: Cooking at its heart, along with excellect customer service.