It is a bold move to locate a restaurant on the pavement at one of the busiest traffic junctions in the capital, but that’s what the brains behind Limoncello have done, and it works extremely well.
We arrive on a warm Wednesday night to a cheery greeting from Bogdan the Romanian waiter who gives us the choice of any of the tables for two that flank the market side of the establishment. The working part of Limoncello is situated inside the revivified municipal market – what a clever idea to locate a restaurant in a fresh fruit and veg emporium – and is very active even at this early hour. Well spaced, traditional wooden tables and chairs, some located under giant umbrellas, spread across the footway. There is a sensible separation between the drinkers and the diners – Limoncello is very big on wines and beers, with over 80 of the former, mostly Hellenic, on offer, with a good smattering of foreigners.
Once Bogdan has settled our drinks we turn our attention to the table mats which contain the menu that is divided into eight sections: The Bites; Piadina (Italian flat bread); Salads; Steaks; Burgers; Fish; Birds and Pizza. Bogdan explains that three items are unavailable: two of which would have featured on my plate – snails and the duck – alas.
On the Bite-Side are three very attractive offers: a Polenta basket containing spinach-gorgonzola stuffing drizzled with truffle oil; chicken liver pate served with home-made crostini and onion compote; and crab boats, an English crab salad spread on Chinese lettuce cups served with guacamole. The salads which are on the large side list five very imaginative offerings, two catch the eye, namely Chevre, made up of soft goat’s cheese, beetroot, green apple, toasted pumpkin seeds and lettuce; Gorgonzola, containing the cheese, caramelised pears, walnuts and fresh market greens. The companion asks for a small version of the latter.
The steak section is the centerpiece of the menu, and not only contains a warning about undercooked meat, but a request to be informed of any food allergies that guests may have. How very sensible. The list mentioned three dishes: The Scotch, The Brazilian and The Philadelphian. All the meat is imported Aberdeen Angus. The Scotch and Philadelphian are Rib-Eyes served off the bone with coleslaw and fried potatoes; and the Brazilian is Top-Rump. The Philly is the classic American cheesesteak served medium-well done. The companion selected The Scotch. In the Fish section there is a crab roll but my fancy is for the marinated and fully filleted sea-bass.
Before our first dishes arrive Bogdan provides three small bowls of savoury dips with a basket of the best chef-made bread I have ever tasted in any restaurant.
The two starters were first-rate.
When the companion chose the steak the waiter explained that they have a special process for preparing their meat. We were escorted into the kitchen area and introduced to Avram, the chef, a man that clearly enjoys his own food. He revealed that the various cuts are kept in a drying chiller that ensures that the meat retains its integrity and requests what size of steak is required. The smallest cut was about 300g so the companion settled for this. What was not revealed by any party is that the specials are sold by weight.
The main courses were interesting; the fish packed with flavour but over-cooked and presented with a fresh pesto salad; the steak, memorable, but overwhelming – part had to be taken home. Similarly the sweets, absolutely delicious, but enormous. We were served two glasses of Mastica to complete a very fine evening’s dining.
Limoncello is open five days, closed Sunday and Monday, opens for lunch and dinner and seats about 100.
SPECIALTY International Cuisine
WHERE Ayios Antonios market, Nicosia
PRICE Not cheap