Trying their hardest not to go to Olivo in Ryde until it had been open a couple of weeks, Matt and Cat had to...

Trying their hardest not to go to Olivo in Ryde until it had been open a couple of weeks, Matt and Cat had to assuage their desire for Italian food by heading to Shanklin’s Pavarotti’s.

Pavarotti's, Shanklin

It was about time the reviewing duo went to this well-established restaurant; previous attempts had seen Matt and Cat thwarted by the venue’s popularity. However, Cat phoned ahead and was assured that a table would be available – and by arriving just after 6.30pm on a Monday they made sure they wouldn’t be gazumped by the holiday-makers in this popular tourist area.

Pavarotti’s is an established business in the Old Village and it sits well alongside the gifte shoppes. In fact, so confident have its owners been of its long-lasting appeal that the vast front window is a stained glass tribute to Luciano Pavarotti himself, instantly recognisable from his outstretched arms, one hand clutching his trademark white handkerchief and with his, er… stunted little legs (the window artisan must have run out of leg room). Certainly this shop could never be mistaken for any other with that prominent and iconic branding. Matt and Cat pondered the permanence of the window. Cat eventually decided that, in the year 2020 the restaurant could be turned into a poundsaver-type shop, when it would be called Tenner (tenor) World!! But enough of the dismal puns, what was the food like?

Mushroom stuffed with mozzarella

A very friendly waitress greeted Matt and Cat at the door, instantly enquiring if Cat was the lady that she’d spoken with earlier on the phone. Allowed to choose their own table, M and C soon settled in and prepared to glance over the menu. The waitress kindly described the two specials, one of which turned out to be unavailable. This halving of the specials did not really limit Matt and Cat’s choice; the regular menu was very comprehensive. There was a whole page each of starters, pizzas, pasta dishes – just as you would expect. In addition, there were some excellent meat and fish dishes and even some veggie options. It was really difficult to choose.

After much deliberation, Matt chose agnello rosmarino, lamb rump slices glazed with butter, rosemary, red wine and garlic. Cat as usual vacillated between fillet steak and chicken, finally settling on pollo agli asparagi, chicken breast with asparagus, white wine and cream. To start, your reviewers agreed to share a portion of the stuffed mushroom special.

Throughout their visit Matt and Cat were serenaded by opera-lite versions of popular songs, possibly rendered by Luciano himself – or if not, certainly a soundalike. The only recognisable warble was that of perennial classic My Way. This was entirely on-topic and not as pervasive as the ubiquitous Phil Collins, for example. The venue itself was decorated in a naïve Italian style – stone walls and plastic vines – yet it didn’t seem as dingy or as dated as La Scala. And the food itself was pure Italian in style.

Ground floor diners get a great view of the busy kitchen which, at the time of Matt and Cat’s visit was already a hive of activity. It wasn’t long before the starter was delivered to the table – a single large flat mushroom stuffed with mozzarella and wrapped in Parma ham. It was absolutely delicious. Really garlicky, with freshly chopped tomatoes in a kind of benign salsa all atop a tiny nest of salad leaves. There was just about enough for sharing and M and C gobbled it up. If that was anything like the rest of the meal, they were in for a treat.

Matt & Cat’s bill
Mushroom starter: £5.75
Pollo asparagi: £11.95
Agnello rosmarino: £12.95
Italian salad: £3.50
1 bottle Peroni: £3.10
Total: £37.25
Chicken and asparagus

Many years ago Cat used to frequent Pavarotti’s and back then it was a really lively family-run restaurant. It had lost none of its charm in the intervening decade and, if anything was slightly slicker; the menu was certainly more comprehensive but the Pavarotti knick-knackery was pretty much the same. One thing that had changed was the crockery. When Matt and Cat’s meals arrived they were on branded plates – generally a swanky touch. However, these Pavarotti’s plates were a kind of 1970s avocado bathroom suite green and, frankly, were not the best backdrop for the otherwise well-presented food.

Cat was very keen to try her chicken and asparagus, anticipating a garlic blast through the white wine and cream sauce. It may have been because she was experiencing the beginnings of a cold but the sauce was so subtle as to be almost bland. The little sticks of asparagus livened the meal up visually and there was certainly plenty of tender meat laying in the plentiful sauce. Matt’s lamb was more of a taste sensation; a nice meaty bit of lamb cooked medium rare as requested. Delightfully moist, the meat had obviously been prepared separately from the rich, dark sauce, and the two united at the last moment. Matt enjoyed it very much.

To accompany their meals, Matt and Cat had a bowl of piping hot chips the temperature of which contrasted with the slightly cool lamb. Because the choice was chips, vegetables or salad, they also paid a supplemental charge to have both chips and an extra Italian salad – a very pleasant mix of queen olives, avocado, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes dressed with oil and balsamic vinegar. The meals certainly needed some greens and it took a moment for the waitress to explain to M and C that the choice wasn’t the more common chips plus salad or chips plus vegetables. Sometimes nerdy Matt is moved to wonder whether menus need to develop a mathematical symbolism to clearly express these things. For example to say You can choose (chips OR veg OR salad) but not ((chips AND veg) OR (chips AND salad)) is a much easier way of explaining the whole thing. But maybe that’s going to be a bit of a niche market. Anyway. As regular readers of this website will know, Matt and Cat are mystified as to why a few places do not include carbohydrates and vegetables with the dish and were delighted when historic Yelf’s decided to change its policy on charging extra for veg. Perhaps Paverotti’s might do the same?

With mixed opinions on their main meals (although in full agreement about the yummiosity of the starter) Matt and Cat decided to forego a pudding or coffee. The waitress offered them the illustrated dessert menu, which was politely declined – in fact, waved aside unstudied. Matt has an irrational prejudice against menus with photographs of food on them, and was instantly turned off. He most often has this reaction when offered sweets in Indian restaurants, but sometimes the dreaded photo-dessert menu makes an unexpected appearance, as it did here. He explained this to Cat; apparently his theory is that the puddings come from from some external supplier which also supplies the illustrated menu – and, worse, it might involve a frozen punky penguin. Cat was not particularly satisfied with this explanation but it was the only one Matt had.

Having paid the bill, Matt and Cat strolled out of the restaurant and into the evening light. With tummies full of Italian food and their ears ringing with operatic warblings, they tried to imagine that they were in Tuscany. But however touristy Tuscany may have become it couldn’t beat the gift shop’s metal wine bottle Elvis; and a grimy fur-fabric googly-eyed sugar cube hanging forlornly in the window of the Rock Shop. Don’t you just love the Isle of Wight?

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  • John & Hilary Woodhouse

    26th September 2012 #1 Author

    We dined at Pavarotti on Monday evening. Our first visit for some time. We were very well received, ordered pizzas & a bottle of wine. All good value & thoroughly enjoyed. The business is still up for sale so the long term outlook is unceertain

    Reply

  • T Blaney

    2nd July 2012 #2 Author

    Dinned here for my Girlfriends Birthday 30-6-12 .. Very sparce menu ! Didnt Book but got seated had Antipasto which was very poor several olives tiny tiny amounts on a £6.00 plate and then had Steaks in Peppercorn Sauce … A Packet Mix Sauce with un cooked chips and 3 slices of cucunber 3 Lettuce leaves and 3 Slices of tomato ! ( which is extra by the way ) ……. I did not want to uspset my girfriends evening by complaining but the standard of food was so poor we agreed we could of done much better … Wine £4 a glass and very small one ! ….
    We will not be going again for a long long time …. The staff were very friendly the steak was reasonable but my £54 pound dining experience wast a waste of money ….

    Reply

  • Catherine

    8th June 2012 #3 Author

    Visited last week and the food was lovely as was the waitress Marina. We and our 5 year old twin girls decided it was the best restaurant we ate at all holiday.

    Thank you Marina

    Reply

  • John Woodhouse

    22nd September 2011 #4 Author

    The place seems to be closed. Tables still laid but moved aside & looks like decorating kit on the floor. Any news anybody? – it was/is up for sale

    Reply

  • tony

    18th August 2011 #5 Author

    Went to the island again last week, first job on arrival was to book a table at Pavarottis for tuesday night, once again great food, very good, friendly service and a very reasonable price, loved it, will be back again next year!

    Reply

  • Mick Willis and family

    1st September 2010 #6 Author

    Agree completely with Harvey. Went to this establishment in August with my wife ,son, and two small grandsons(5 & 3). Cannot comment much on food as we left before it arrived. Ordered some garlic bread to keep us going until main course arrived – after 35 minutes garlic bread arrived (wrong type and only just warm) but by this time we were so hungry we just ate it. After 50+ minutes the table behind us was served although they had arrived long after us. At this stage we left handing some money to one of three waitresses who were chatting away and headed for the nearest takeaway. If in Shanklin do not go to Pavarottis the service is dreadful it is the only restaurant I have ever walked out of and I have eaten in some dumps ! It really was the only blight on an otherwise lovely week on the island.

    Reply

  • Colin

    18th August 2010 #7 Author

    Chris,

    I have eaten both at Pavarotti’s and the place ‘up the Hill’. In my opinion you both serve very decent food at a decent price, however I don’t really think it is appropriate for local restaurateurs to start bad mouthing each other, it only reflects badly on you.

    As a point of interest I last ate at Pavarotti’s almost 3 years ago to the month. We haven’t been for some length of time. Last time we had a table booked, 2 hours before we were due to dine I got a call from a waitress saying that your delivery of pizza bases (dough) hadn’t arrived and pizzas / garlic were therefore off the menu.

    I am no expert so have no idea if traditional Italian pizzerias make their own bases but my point is that there will be good and bad experiences (reviews) for every restaurant, people’s expectations differ and bad mouthing the competition will only make you look worse. I have eaten ‘up the hill’ a number of times in the intervening period and as yet I nothing negative to report.

    Nothing wrong with friendly competition but try to keep it civil! 🙂

    Reply

  • chris

    18th August 2010 #8 Author

    Hi again and thanks for the favourable comments… They are much recieved..
    Just a question to JJ.C !! How can the food be of poor standard when all are meat is sourced locally from farmers on the island. All pastas are the best money can buy ( De cecco ).All fish is brought in fresh, all fresh vegetables all sauces made to order.
    I take this very seriously and make sure all my produce is of top quality and consistancy. If your after frozen cheap fish and B Grade meat carry on up the hill. You’ll find it .

    Reply

  • Martin

    17th August 2010 #9 Author

    We visit this restaurant regulary when visiting our family in Shanklin and it’s never been anything less than superb. We last visited on Sunday 15th August 2010 and the food and service was excellent.

    Reply

  • John

    6th August 2010 #10 Author

    We dined there with friends on July 31 – a busy Saturday
    evening. This was about our fourth visit in the last eighteen
    months. Suffice to say the food was superb & the service
    attentive. Well done!

    Reply

  • tony

    6th July 2010 #11 Author

    we discovered pavarottis last year towards the end of our holiday so we only got to eat there once. we went back to the island last week and made sure we got there twice this time. the food is brilliant, served very quickly compared to some restaurants and the staff were very friendly. i love italian food and this place is the best italian restaurant ive been to.

    Reply

  • KJ

    30th June 2010 #12 Author

    Well our customers have returned to frequent Paverottis en mass and every report has been favourable….maybe the resteraunt ebbs and flows with the tourist season, but it is currently excellent

    Reply

  • ray and sandy

    29th June 2010 #13 Author

    used to work there,are the original owners still there m and l,had many a good times if not a hard slog but thats work for you,never see them cut corners at the time,suppose you will never please all,good luck.

    Reply

  • scott calvert

    15th June 2010 #14 Author

    having browsed through the review i was very disappointed on the pictured displayed by mattt and cat. the food looks rather off putting and the plates rather horrid. i have seen the comment regarding the changes made to the plates but still presentation of the food itself looks rather bad.
    think we will be giving this place a miss in the furture

    Reply

  • chris

    27th May 2010 #15 Author

    Lol plates have now been changed.

    Reply

  • chris

    27th May 2010 #16 Author

    Hi again just a quick update to let our valued customers know that we are now open 7 days a week from 6 pm and from 4 pm from august through sept. Also we will be offering a new £10 three course menu that will run from dec through till march.
    We use local produce that is sourced from island farms to support the local economy and have made significant changes to our current menu so why not pop in and see for yourself.
    Regards Chris

    Reply

  • chris

    16th February 2010 #17 Author

    Hi everyone and thanks for your comments good and bad.
    Constructive critisism is always welcome as we strive to make things above average here at pavarotti’s
    As for the FOR SALE sign i think you were looking in the wrong shop window as we have never been 4 sale and dont intend to.
    I have been here 6 years and tend to be here for at least 6 more 🙂
    In Winter season we normally close Mon-Tue and open rest of the week.
    Many regards
    Chris

    Reply

  • ghostmoth

    7th January 2010 #18 Author

    I walked past a few days ago and the owners seem to have shut up shop as there is a For Sale sign in the window.

    Reply

  • kj

    14th August 2009 #19 Author

    I recommend it based on my experience

    You condemn based on yours… that is what these posts are all about.

    Very interested in which supermarket pizzas you found better than Pavarotti’s.

    Reply

  • nick

    14th August 2009 #20 Author

    never again will we go for a meal there
    we hadn´t even finished our main course and already we were rushed the bill without even having asked for it because apparently they needed the table back
    it wasn´t even that busy and to be honest i had nicer pizzas from the supermarket
    how anyone can reccomend this abomination is beyond comprehension.

    Reply

  • Dani

    10th August 2009 #21 Author

    We took are children to this restaurant and we all really enjoyed it. The food was superb, the waitresses charming, atmosphere just right.

    THANK YOU MATT AND CAT!

    Reply

  • Lucy ‘The Riley’

    15th July 2009 #22 Author

    I mean Pavarotti’s on the last post 🙂

    Reply

  • Lucy

    15th July 2009 #23 Author

    Me and my boyfriend went there tonight and the food was absolutely divine.
    I had the King Prawn and seafood pizza and my boyfriend had pepperoni pizza. Mine was nice, although I was a tad put off by the tentacles (not sure whether it was squid or octopus). Garlic bread was delicious. Would definitely go again, especially as you are able to take away the pizza you don’t eat (breakfast!!!)

    Reply

  • Two Veggies

    18th June 2009 #24 Author

    I think you are making a wise choice about Olivio, they are having a few problems at the moment. I would give it a month or like us and some other punters were treated: you arrive are smiled at,seated,told their will be no waitress for 15 mutes,wait patiently for half an hour then told there is no food left and can you leave please????? Bizarre

    Reply

  • kj

    15th June 2009 #25 Author

    We had some rather disappointing comments from customers who have been here over the ‘off season’ so hopefully things are now back to normal

    Reply

  • Auntie P

    12th June 2009 #26 Author

    I totally agree about the photo dessert menus.

    Reply