There was a time in Ventnor when you could have an Italian dining experience from the international offering at Fogg’s, with its menu from around the world in platey ways. And, of course, the teams at Tramezzini, Cantina and the venerable Bonchurch Inn, have been banging this particular dinner gong for years too. However, since we started writing our food reviews so much has changed, and two of these venues are no more, and the others are now under the management of a younger generation. So it goes.
For those among you who only navigate ‘Isle of Wight style’, i.e. by landmarks which are no longer there, Amarcord is in Ventnor High Street’s old chippy – or ‘The Chippy’ to give it its full title.
The venue has been attractively refurbished; the fryers have been decommissioned to be replaced by a pizza oven, and the cellar has been opened up to provide additional dining accommodation. Styled in the industrial chic vogue of the last decade or so, which shows no sign of going out of fashion, you can expect bare bricks, stone tiles and wooden furniture – including a distressed piano, which seemed mostly to be serving as an elaborate menu holder.
We took a look. There was a decent range of pizzas and pasta dishes, with one or two items of locally-sourced produce among the more traditional ingredients. We shared a caprese salad, made with Isle of Wight tomatoes. There was plenty to go around the four of us, and we enjoyed the fresh starter, with its crumbled mozzarella and shredded basil, plus hunks of tasty sourdough bread to mop up the juices and olive oil dressing.
The mains took a bit of time to arrive; no matter, that gave us the opportunity to catch up on gossip with our mates, and swap stories of our latest adventures.
Caprese salad £9
Linguine granchio £22
Linguine gamberoni £22
Pizza quattro stagione £18
Pizza Napoli £17
The pasta dishes were delivered first and got rather cool as we waited for our companions’ pizzas. Nonetheless, the penne gamberoni with salmone e rucola was delicious. Succulent king prawns bathed in the cream and white wine sauce, with folds of salmon providing a salty smoky note, under the twirl of peppery rocket.
Although it had a decent amount of prawns, our linguine granchio e gamberoni was not particularly loaded with the advertised crab. However, once we tucked into the al dente pasta, we enjoyed the local plum tomato and garlickyness of the sauce, with whole fruits providing a sweet backdrop to the shellfish.
The bases of our well-stacked pizzas were in that Goldilocks zone: not too crispy, yet not too soft and thick. We pimped up our quattro stagione with additional anchovies, which complemented the artichokes, olives, mushrooms and plentiful ham. Our fourth dish was a classic pizza Napoli; again with anchovies (this time as standard), olives and capers. Alas there were no puddings, but perhaps we didn’t have room anyway, having boxed up our leftovers.
Amarcord is a decent Italian restaurant, serving delicious food in a relaxed environment. As with many venues these days, the prices may cause some to baulk, but then they are using locally-sourced ingredients and each dish is made to order. This was, in fact, our third visit, so we clearly like the place!