by Alexander McCowan
Is there any long term male resident in Nicosia apart from me who hasn’t dined at Romantica? I think not. It is located on a residential road parallel with Kallipoleos and presents a bright face to the visitor and once inside you cannot be seen from the road; interesting.
We arrive late on a Saturday night and are shown to a neat table for two in the lower section of the garden and notice that all other customers are dining al-fresco surrounded by hedges, shrubs and trees. The restaurant is a very classy joint and divides into different levels where tables for two mingle with those for ten; one has the feeling that most of the diners have been there before, although not being one of those, the charming waitress seemed to anticipate my needs by producing a bottle of mineral water and pouring the contents without me saying a word.
One aspect of the Romantica policy is that lighting is minimal and one has to recourse to additional illumination to read the menu; a practice I find irritating. Service is sharp and the waitresses attractive; a basket of rolls and menus arrive, and with the exception of the cold cuts and cheese, the starter list looks very interesting with seven items ranging through beef carpaccio, asparagus with Parmesan vinaigrette, seafood pouches with spinach, and my selection; fish tartar with Zucchini and pears. The companion selects the asparagus: both dishes were very good; it is most unusual to find a chef willing to challenge the notoriously conservative taste of our countrymen.
We ignored the salads and risotto, which looked perfectly fine, and passed to the main dishes and pasta. We were told by Maitre Andreas that all pasta is made on the premises, which is always encouraging in an Italian restaurant. The main section contained all that the late night diner could desire: beef, veal, pork and chicken in all its manifestations, with salmon, bass and cod as an alternative – we decided to explore the pasta.
Three spaghetti dishes, combining lots of cream, bacon, garlic, mushrooms, fresh herbs, truffle oil and Parmesan and many others top the list but I wanted the tortelloni, which I am sure was meant to be tortellini, because they were stuffed with chicken, asparagus and cream cheese: the Italian companion chose the linguine with prawns, garlic, chilli and tomatoes.
A bowl of grated Parmesan heralded the arrival of the main courses. Admittedly vision was restricted but I swear my tortellini resembled ravioli: no sign of the two pressed circles pinched in the middle; however the contents of the pouches were delicious as were the strips of chicken breast in rich cream sauce.
Madam’s dish gave rise to another of those petty niggles which comes from having an Italian mother-in-law who knew about pasta – linguine is a very thin ribbon like product – and what accompanied the splendid prawns was neither very thin nor ribbon like, but there was a lot of it. Both pasta dishes were sub al-dente, some people like that.
Neither of us could complete the meal due to the size of the portions but were anxious to try the sweets. There were eight items on offer and I wished we had tried all of them if my choice was anything to go on. I had the Tiramisu and the companion the Mille-Feuille. The pastry chef has an exceptionally light touch and both sweets were excellent.
By the time we were leaving the restaurant was filling with many handsome couples seeking a romantic evening and they couldn’t have picked a more suitable venue. The whole atmosphere is intimate, low key, nothing offensive on the turn-table, and a generally pleasing ambience; with good food, first rate service, and acceptable cost; what more could you want for a Romantica evening.
The wine list, if you overlook the Champagnes and Burgundies, is very reasonable, particularly the well priced Cyprus wines.
SPECIALTY Italian Cuisine
WHERE Romantica, Evagora Pallikardi 13, Nicosia
WHEN Lunch and Dinner, closed on Sunday
CONTACT 22-376161 and 22-377276.
PRICE Starters from €8, main from €16