Once upon a time Italian restaurants were ubiquitous on every high street. You know the sort of thing: generic pasta and pizza, checked tablecloths, raffia-wrapped wine bottles and textured artex walls. Desperate to set themselves apart from the competition in a sea of look-alike venues, some took to oversized pepper grinders flourished suggestively by snake-hipped waiters, tableside flambé dishes and sudden deafening renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’ at the sound of a bell.
There are one or two heritage places where some of these tropes survive, but nowadays Italian restaurants distinguish themselves by using locally-sourced ingredients, creativity in the kitchen and less provocative condiment delivery.
Prego in East Cowes has set the bar high, with its industrial-luxe interior and delicious dishes that we are happy to cross the Island for. Even Michelangelo’s, a stalwart of Ryde’s Leisure Strip™, offers a northern Italian Tyrollean-based alternative to the Neapolitan classics.
Another long-standing Island Mediterranean restaurant is Tramezzini, the sister venue to the phenomenal Smoking Lobster. Having previously enjoyed some great meals in Tramezzini, from a breakfast of pancetta and fluffy eggs to an excellent-value themed dinner, we were keen to give the standard evening menu a go.
Seafood is strong here, and Matt’s baby prawn and Ventnor Bay crab tacos impressed. He picked up the crispy street-food style tacos and relished the generous servings of delicate shellfish, enhanced by simple tomato and lime salsa, all in crispy home-made taco shells.
From the specials board was tempura sea bream on prawn, sweet potato and tomato laksa risotto, which Matt somehow managed order instead of the hugely-tempting cote de pork with girolle and truffle. He was very glad he had. If anyone is thinking that risotto is a curious accompaniment to battered fish, they are simply wrong and should be sent to Tramezzini immediately to be schooled. The tender, light fish in the delicate tempura was perfect with this outspoken seafood rice. The silky laksa soup was studded with prawns and fresh tomato chunks, all soaking into the rice to make a magnificent rich Asian-inspired risotto.
Smoked chicken starter £7.50
Prawn taco starter £8
Tempura sea bream risotto £21
Seafood & lobster lasagne £18
Panna cotta £6.50
Cat’s chicken rillette starter was a clever construction of coarse-chunked chicken, layered on Cajun-spiced crisps and spotted with black garlic. Its zizzy Isle of Wight tomato salsa with a pep of citrus was the stand-out component, making Cat exclaim with joy at the first forkful.
Even today, the memory of Cat’s seafood and lobster lasagne is as clear as the moment she tasted this slightly sweet and aromatic dish. Chock full of lobster and crab, with oodles of big prawns and flaked poached local cod, this pasta dish was remarkable. With its creamy lobster sauce and plenty of melted cheese, it was the perfect comfort food. The side salad was all about the sparks of flavour; black olives, twirly pea shoots, pickles and samphire. Using the garlic bread to mop up the remaining rich sauce, Cat was satisfied that this was a top flight dish.
Our attention was drawn briefly from the pudding menu by someone at a neighbouring table regaling their fellow diners about the time they were at the top of Glencoe and met someone from the Isle of Wight. Six degrees, and all that.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Fresh, hot churros surrounded a luxurious scoop of sweet white chocolate parfait that Matt polished off in pleasure. And then, sashaying on its plate was Cat’s panna cotta. This was poetry in motion; it was the wibbliest of milky puds – none of that rigid rubbery stuff here. With sweet and refreshing Caribbean flavours of coconut, pineapple and lime, this pina colada in dessert form was the perfect summer dish. A great end to the meal.
The team in Tramezzini’s kitchen definitely knows its onions – and seafood. The food at the little High Street venue was outstanding. Using fresh and very local ingredients to create stunning dishes with exclamation-worthy flavours, we were delighted again and again. It’s yet another high-end restaurant we can recommend in Ventnor, and we say that if you like the massively trendy Smoking Lobster you’d be well-advised to seek out its more established sibling for a different but equally enjoyable meal.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Creative updates of Mediterranean classics
- Local and seasonal ingredients