review by Carol Waterkeyn
La Lambretta in Fordingbridge is a really impressive, and authentic Italian restaurant, with an interior of rustic brickwork, wooden floors and immaculate white linen. It is owned and run by Marco Stefanini.
Marco hails from Piedmont in north-west Italy and comes from a restaurantowning family. So from an early age, he was helping in the restaurant kitchen. However, with a love of, and talent for skiing, Marco became a ski instructor in his local mountainscape before marrying his English wife and relocating to England with their children a few years later.
Once established in the area, Marco was soon employed as manager of the Radnor Arms, before searching for his own perfect premises for a restaurant. In October the dream became a reality.
“Our menu is traditional Italian, not English-Italian, so reflects how Italians like to eat,” said Marco enthusiastically as he welcomed us in.
Marco has two other chefs working with him; one is a traditional Italian chef and the other is a specialist pizza chef. His pizzas are made in a traditional pizza oven in the kitchen, and you can see both chefs busily working in there. But, this is not just a dedicated pizza restaurant. (Although, if you wish, you can have a freshly made pizza to take away and, while you are waiting, have a drink in the bar area.)
We were offered a drink there on our arrival, and Paul, my husband, chose a small carafe of white Sicilian wine and I decided on a small glass of organic Sicilian red. There are predominantly Italian wines on the drinks menu, with a few others. But we decided, ‘when in Rome…’ It certainly felt like we had taken a trip to Rome with a warm, continental atmosphere, Italian staff and a relaxed ambience. The weather outside was a cold English evening in March, but we soon forgot that.
Some of the very Italian, difficult-to-source ingredients that the restaurant uses are shipped over from Italy, but the pasta is made daily on the premises by Marco; meat comes from the butchers’ shop over the road; and the very fresh seafood comes from Poole. Fruit and vegetables are bought locally, too. All sauces are homemade and gluten free, and you can request gluten free pasta. The menu indicates which dishes are suitable for those on gluten-free or vegetarian diets. There’s also, helpfully, a children’s menu with smaller versions of the main dishes (and not a chicken nugget in sight!)
Our own menu was the winter one, but it is about to change to a lighter, spring version, which will include more fish dishes and salads.
While we waited for our chosen dishes, we were given canapi farinata – which are little chickpea flour canapés.
For our starters, Paul had selected the fresh buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and rocket, while I requested the Bresaola – air-dried salt beef, rocket and Grana Pedano cheese shavings. We swapped the delicious dishes half way through. They were accompanied by a basket of Italian breadsticks and some special wafer-thin Sardinian Carasau (musicpaper) bread which is very crispy, and like a cross between a poppadum and a flatbread.
Paul chose pasta for his main course and was delighted to see the fresh tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms brought to the table. I had selected the baked aubergine, mozzarella and tomato dish called Involtini di Melanzana, infused with garlic and served with salad.
We’d just enough room for two desserts; the decadent homemade Tiramisu (one of Mr W’s favourites) while I opted for the lemon sorbet, but this was no ordinary sorbet. Served with Limoncello and Prosecco, it was fabulous. I rounded off with an authentic Italian coffee, while Paul finished his wine.
It was a veritable feast of a meal and we loved our visit. All the members of staff were lovely, while Marco was an excellent host.
Photos by Paul Waterkeyn