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Restaurant reivew: Bar Italia, Nicosia

rest1

Over the past few years I came to realise that I have a real soft spot for family-run restaurants. Perhaps it’s a sign of my advancing old age or the perennial nostalgia of ‘the good ol’ times’, when, probably just in in my mind, everything, including food, was much simpler.

Think about it. There aren’t many old-fashioned, simple and unpretentious establishments left in Cyprus if you don’t count the ubiquitous tavernas. Every new place that opens seeks the wow factor, if not in the menu, at least in the decor or the vibe.

Bar Italia, with its vintage name and once grand location, just off Nicosia’s Makariou Street, is a breath of fresh air thanks to its simplicity and refusal to be more than what it actually is, a good place to eat!

And bear in mind that Italian food never fails to shine when it’s kept simple.

Onto the food. Bar the extensive choice of pasta dishes – we’ll get there – the menu is not huge. A few ‘antipasti’ (starters, if you must), a handful of traditional salads, such as the evergreen ‘caprese’ with basil, tomato and mozzarella, some meat entries all’italiana, namely the breaded chicken found in every restaurant from Venice to Rome and four or five desserts.

rest2Me and my dining companion, in search of the simple pleasures, started by sharing an ‘entry of the day’, which, luckily for us, was a wonderfully executed ‘parmigiana di melanzane’, fried, sliced eggplant layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked. It did not disappoint. Hearty yet delicate, the homemade tomato sauce elevated the dish. It should be a permanent entry in yours truly’s opinion.

Mention of honour for the complementary focaccia served with black olive paste. If that is an indication of it, their pizzas must be quite special.

However, Bar Italia’s real strength lies in the choice of pasta. Carbonara, amatriciana, cacio e pepe, pesto, arrabbiata… all the classics are there. And, to my delight, the two that made their way onto our table delivered oh so well.

One of them, spaghetti with clams (‘alle vongole’) featured the right amount of garlic, which for me needs to stand out, chopped parsley, some sparsely sprinkled chilli flakes. Pungent, yet surprisingly light.

The other pasta we ordered was special. I do love a good ‘cacio e pepe’, with tangy pecorino cheese and cracked pepper. A staple of Italian cusine, it is also surprisingly hard to make.

The way it arrived on our table alone was worth a visit to the place. The pasta is in fact prepared in front of the customers’ eyes, as the waiter mixes it in a wheel of parmesan. Just for the show? Not at all! Once melted, the flambeed cheese gave the dish a wonderful creamy texture. Perhaps not the lightest of options, but definitely worth a try.

We finished our dinner off with a reassuring tiramisu, which I definitely advise to share.

Bar Italia will not end up in glossy magazines, it will never become a cool place, but it is a very popular place.

I for one want to give them the credit they deserve for serving good, honest and simple food, one that might not have the wow factor, but that will never disappoint.

 

VITAL STATISTICS

SPECIALTY Italian

WHERE Bar Italia, Zinonos Sozou 1, Nicosia

WHEN Monday to Saturday 12-3pm, 6.30-11.30pm, Sunday closed

CONTACT 22 377033

HOW MUCH Entries €7-14, pasta €12-20, pizza €11-18, dessert €8

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