Rustica is the newest Italian restaurant to come to Whiteladies Road having opened only three days before we dropped in attracted by its appealing kerbside charm and mouth-watering menu displayed outside. Habitual walkers through Clifton will remember that there was a small café on this spot before and this space has morphed into a chic wooden and glass structure with a summerhouse feel; the windows roll down and the roof can be taken back in minutes should the sun deign to pop out. Inside it’s cool and rather sophisticated, white marble tables, blue velvet seating, a pink silk rose on each table and white napkins add to the air that this is more than a pizza/pasta bar.
The menu is a well put together combination Italy’s best dishes, with quite an accent on seafood; fresh mussels as a starter, linguini with prawns, calamari fritti, and risotto marinara with a great mixture of all of those. I was especially pleased to see ossobuco on the list (slow cooked veal shank served with carrots and mushroom risotto), one of my favourite dishes and the most authentic Italian food you can eat. We were seduced by the ‘specials’ on offer : fish soup for a starter and salmon gnocchi with tomatoes, onions, olives, a sprinkling of chilli in a vodka cream sauce as a main course. I asked if I could have the mushroom risotto as a starter which was no problem, followed by the said gnocchi, and my husband ordered the fish soup starter followed by nasello al forno, baked fillet of hake wrapped in Parma ham, with white wine sauce, new potatoes and asparagus.
The fish soup made quite an entrance – a steaming bowl of thick broth, full of plump white fish, garnished with mussels and calamari, topped with two large pieces of toast for mopping up every last bit. It was excellent, as was my risotto, thick and creamy made robustly flavoursome by the wild mushrooms.
With our main courses we ordered two glasses of Trebbiano, a light and fresh Italian wine, served beautifully chilled and the perfect match for both dishes. The gnocchi was delicious and worthy of being permanently on the menu; the hake in its wrapping of Parma ham was delicate and moist to the last mouthful. We felt like we were on holiday as it was all such a treat, and the atmosphere so jolly.
We finished our dinner by sharing a honeycomb cheesecake with vanilla ice-cream, and a glass of limoncello (not served frozen which I think was much nicer), and of course a first-class double espresso. Rustica is a little gem which we don’t want to recommend too loudly in case next time they don’t have room for us!