This is an old review. See our most recent one here
A restaurant’s location, location, location can elevate a mediocre trough into an excellent eating out establishment. Consider Ventnor’s Spyglass Inn, work-a-day pub grub enhanced by its spectacular setting in the south facing cove.
Ryde’s Michelangelo Northern Italian Restaurant shares a comparable view to the town’s Long John Eater, positioned as it is at the bottom of St Thomas Street. Its picture windows overlook the western gardens and the pier and Solent beyond. Because it is north-facing, the pavement seating will never be in full sun but this shadiness might appeal to the fairer skinned of Matt and Cat’s readers.
M and C’s first attempt at reviewing this restaurant was thwarted by the establishment’s popularity – it was fully booked; this on a weekday at the tail end of the summer. However, persistence won out and, one Tuesday evening, Matt and Cat scrubbed up and went out hopefully for their posh dinner.
The lady proprietor welcomed Matt and Cat in and they were seated at an intimate table for two in the surprisingly cottagey interior. Their waiter seemed to be a noob, as he was closely monitored by his female colleague who translated Matt and Cat’s southern counties English into.. er, English then Italian which he wrote down and then confirmed the order back to her in English. This little pantomime was quite entertaining and certainly preferable for all concerned to sending him out alone to make a hash-up of the order. We all have to learn; M and C hope they treated him gently.
There was certainly plenty of choice on Michelangelo’s menu – nearly a dozen pasta dishes, including spaghetti with clams, tomato and garlic, fusilli with basil and sheep cheese, and pappardelle rustiche: large egg ribbon pasta served with creamy sauce of sausage sautéed in red wine with mushrooms and smoked cheese. The meat course had some mouthwatering lamb, pork and chicken dishes all of which Matt passed on in favour of scaloppine alla Milanese, breaded and fried veal escalope.
Cat had her attention caught by the pizza menu, again plenty to choose from, including several for vegetarians (who will find the meat menu a bit challenging, although the pasta menu has options for herbivorous diners). Pizza fungi (mushrooms) for The Cat and, to get her five-a-day, she also ordered insalata caprese, a tomato, olive, mozzarella and basil side salad.
Years ago, Matt and Cat ate at Michelangelo’s and, at that time, they had a spectacular antipasto consisting of a bunch of cold meats served on a polished slice of wood. And, waddya know, the same dish was still on the menu. Huzzah! What’s more, it was beautifully presented and very tasty.
Italian cuisine can be a bit confusing for the uninitiated; there may be many courses served in a specific order. Matt and Cat had an introduction to this fragmented way of eating when a recent visitor of Italian decent cooked them a meal Chez Matthew – carbohydrates were served as a separate course to the fantastic fillet steak, cold meats and olives were given as appetisers before the table was even laid.
This separation was brought into sharp relief when Matthew took delivery of his breaded veal at the same time that Cat’s salad arrived. Cat, panicky, asked the waiter for her pizza – a simultaneous pizza/salad consumption was required and Cat had messed up by ordering from two different parts of the menu and expecting the food arrive concurrently. Fortunately, her pizza was ready and it was put in front of her without delay. This was responsive, smooth service, and very commendable.
Having filled up on an earlier course of bread and butter and the antipasto of thinly sliced hams with a dollop of pickled vegetables, Cat’s appetite’s edge had certainly had the corners knocked off it – to the extent that she was no longer particularly hungry. Plus she had, through the perennial Eyes-Bigger-Than-Stomach syndrome, ordered two cheese-heavy dishes (pizza and mozzarella salad). Once they arrived, Cat’s arteries started contracting and she only picked at the pizza and selected the fresh and juicy beefsteak tomato slices from the salad. The food was good, but Cat reflected that the salad may have been improved if the cheese had been torn instead of sliced and the basil ripped as fresh leaves instead of the dried, chopped seasoning. The pizza, however – as Matt attested, having the task of finishing it off – was simple and very pleasant.
Matt, in the meantime, examined his thin veal escalope and its accompanying dish of seasoned vegetables. Matt has little or no prior experience of veal, but aware that Italians are supposed to know what to do with it, he plunged in courageously, assuming that anything costing £14.50 was going to be good. A single, long, slice of veal was supplied, with a copious coating of breadcrumbs. A garnish of a single lettuce leaf made the dish presentable. Matt gingerly nibbled a corner, and found the tender but dryish meat to be very subtly flavoured – indeed, the crisp breadcrumb coating seemed to be of more significance to the palette than the wafer-thin sliver of veal inside. The meat and the enjoyable accompanying vegetables were soon gone: pleasant, but leaving little impression en route. Maybe all veal is like this, but on this showing Matt decided he wouldn’t be investing another £14.50 soon.
Matt and Cat enjoyed their meal, and the service and location could not be faulted. But they expected more of Michaelangelo’s. It is a veritable restaurant of great respectability, that has been serving good, sensible Italian food in Ryde for as long as anyone can remember. But somehow its cottagey interior, although relaxing, and with authentic Italian atmosphere, seemed a little staid and unadventurous: and perhaps the same could be said of the food.
This is an old review. See our most recent one here
Michelangelo Northern Italian Restaurant, Ryde (archive review)