At last we are liberated; all our favourite restaurants are re-opening and it’s time to party! Top of our favourites list is Alfresco in Westbury-on-Trym where you are always sure of a warm and sunny welcome just as you would get in Italy, and great authentic Italian food. They have made the most of their terrace which has comfortable and spacious tables where you can watch the world go by and drink a cocktail or two before supper : there is a tempting list of botanic gins as well as Aperol which I regard as one of the finest things to come out of Italy.
I have to admit that I had already chosen in my head before we got the menu (pizza followed by penne arrabiata) but the menu has changed and there are new and tempting dishes to try. To start, we decided to share antipasto all’Italiana, a piece of Italy on a plate; selected Italian aged cured meats, with marinated and grilled vegetables, Italian cheeses and stone baked artisan bread and I chose a new pasta dish for the main course bearing the rather grand title of ‘paccheri n’duja ricotta e melanzane’. I’m a great fan of n’duja which is the spicy Calabrian sausage made with pork and hot Calabrian peppers, in this case mixed with aubergine, a touch of tomato and finished with shavings of ricotta cheese, and the paccheri which is a large tubed pasta, the better to hold all that lovely sauce.
My dinner companion toyed with the choice of ravioli of the day, or maybe a sirloin steak but branzino alla Alfresco won, sea bass fillets, with mussels and king prawns poached in white wine and served with vegetables and roasted baby potatoes. Never shy about being the awkward diner, he asked for chips instead of baby potatoes and his request was granted with a big smile and no problem.
A huge white plate was set down before us, our starter which looked even better than it sounded on the menu; a colourful platter of delicate pink meats artfully folded, spears of Parmesan, a small dish of duck liver pâté, green olives, stuffed piquante peppers, all arranged around a large artichoke heart. A meal in itself, we lost no time in demolishing it and enjoyed every minute of it.
Our main courses arrived, the sea bass surrounded by fat mussels and juicy prawns (not forgetting the chips) and my pasta beautifully presented and topped by delicate shavings of ricotta. I really enjoyed this new dish, it was delicious, uniquely spicy and satisfying and I made them promise never to take it off the menu! We finished with panna cotta with berries and a glass of Limoncello having had a great time, service was friendly and fun and we shall return as soon as possible.