4:02pm Thursday 26th April 2012
JOSH LAYTON discovers a discreet restaurant which deserves to be shouted about
Wiltshire SN5 5JX
Tel: 01793 772027
EVEN before Casa Paolo’s white plates had landed on my table, the superlatives were flowing thick and fast from diners around me. “Absolutely stunning,” was the verdict from one middle-aged couple. “Excellent, absolutely spectacular,” was the consenus from another table.
A waiter, possibly used to such praise, responded to both with a softly-spoken thank you. Clearly, the Casa Paolo was doing something right.
Pulling up on a week night in a darkened car park off the B4553, however, seemed a strange introduction to this unlikely powerhouse of Italian cuisine.
Resembling a coach house pub on the outside, the restaurant’s front door opened into a small reception and bar area.
With low-level lighting, gentle service and only a dozen or so tables, the dining area was almost entirely populated by couples.
Being alone, I was issued with a wi-fi key, ensuring I had more than the Mediterranean fish chart to keep me company.
I opened with the caprino con rucola, three sizeable half-moons of goats’ cheese resting on a clump of rocket salad. The flavour of the cheese was subdued rather than tangy, yet rich with a thick, earthy freshness.
The rustic approach and uncluttered presentation set the pattern for the rest of the meal.
For the main course I opted for the ravioli, taking the recommendation of a chef who read the specials personally to each table with the look of a submariner relaying urgent news above decks. The dish, with a filling of beef, veal and spinach, proved out of this world.
The meat had a rugged, country game quality which was hugely gratifying, while the pasta shells also had a robustness reminiscent of homemade stock rather than the watery variety preferred at high street chains. The restaurant’s approach of sourcing local ingredients is clearly paying dividends. Layered with minimum fuss in a pasta bowl, the parcels were piping hot and topped with specks of basil and a sauce of cream, parmesan cheese, butter and pepper. The seasoning was strong but stayed firmly in the background, while the warmth and quality of the dish remained some time after.
The laughter grew louder and the focus of the restaurant switched to a bar area so small Maldini would have trouble turning in it.
I finished with baked apple pie and a dollop of vanilla ice cream from the mid-section of a wooden dessert trolley which was trundled over to my table.
I settled the bill – £25.10 including a soft drink – and left after exchanging a quiet ciao with the waiting staff.
The restaurant might not shout about its food, but the customers do, and that’s the way Casa Paolo likes it.
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