review by Janine Pulford
Welcomed to La Lambretta by Marco Stefanini, Nick and I were instantly enveloped in the warm and happy chatter generated by at least 40 diners on the Thursday night we visited.
Our expectations were heightened as we watched fabulous plates of food arrive at other tables, while enjoying a Sicilian organic red wine Fedele Rosso, which was fruity and easy to drink.
Extending his Italian hospitality, Marco served an appetiser, which is offered free to every table. Ours was farinata, a tasty chickpea unleaven bread. A carafe of water with ice and lemon was also provided.
Marco explained that he orders a lot of products from Italy including the Parma ham. Fresh meat, fish and veg, however, is sourced locally and, where possible, in Fordingbridge. All pasta sauces are gluten-free and can be served with gluten-free pasta. The fresh egg pasta is made on the premises by Marco.
For starters (antipasti) Nick ordered Caprese di bufala, buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomato and fresh basil.
Served whole with cherry tomatoes placed inside, the Italian mozzarella was a sight to behold. Its firm and silky consistency outstripped that of any other mozzarella either of us had eaten and the notes of fresh basil added vibrancy and flavour as well as that delicious fragrance.
My starter was Capesante – pan-fried scallops served with mixed leaves and cherry tomatoes. The three large scallops were seared on the outside and soft in the middle as they should be, retaining their delicate nature. Mixed leaves complemented the trio as did the extra virgin olive oil and rich balsamic vinegar that I could add at will.
The thin Italian breadsticks from Turin, Grissini Torinesi, provided a crunchy element, as did the wafer thin Sardinian carasau, all presented in a generous bag on the table for no extra cost.
For mains, we opted for ribbon pasta with wavy edges. Mine came with Spicy Arrabbiata – tomato sauce, garlic, chilli and extra virgin olive oil. Nick’s was served with ragu (Bolognese sauce), the beef mince was created with a delicious combo of tomato, onion, celery and carrot.
My arrabbiata was really hot, exactly how I like it. I chose chilli because I like an after-burn, and this dish did not disappoint.
Nick and I helped ourselves to grated fresh Parmesan supplied in a generous pot on the table.
Marco has been in catering since he was 13 when he started working in the family restaurant in north-west Italy. He moved to England five years ago.
He says his food is simple, fresh and tasty. And the simplicity makes it easy to eat and enjoy.
La Lambretta’s most popular dishes are pizzas, which are freshly made to order by an Italian pizza chef and come in 18 different varieties. The calzone (folded pizza) was served at another table and was a spectacle to behold, as was the expression of the lady who had ordered it.
For dessert Nick chose Cannoli Siciliani – biscuits filled with chocolate and cream and I decided on home baked lemon cheesecake. I would say after such spectacular and tasty first and second courses, the sweets were interesting and different. Show-stoppers, definitely, but I wanted a drizzle of cream or quenelle of ice cream with my cheesecake (oh how English I am) to help it down. Nick’s dessert was crispy, crunchy, creamy and delicious.
Marco and his Italian chefs provide authentic food with real flavours of their homeland. Our waiter was also Italian, having travelled from Marco’s family restaurant to enjoy a few weeks work experience.
It is always a challenge to find an Italian restaurant that hasn’t lost its originality, so Fordingbridge should be proud of La Lambretta. Marco and his team have achieved something special and, judging by how busy it was on the night we visited, others think he has too.
La Lambretta has a Christmas menu and is open on Christmas Day. On New Year’s Eve, the party will include live music.