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Review: Tavernetta, Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 19:36 15 October 2018

Roasted herby pork with potatoes  Picture: Archant

Roasted herby pork with potatoes Picture: Archant

Archant

We tried the food at this Sicilian/Italian restaurant in central Ipswich.

Ricotta and spinach pizza  Picture: ArchantRicotta and spinach pizza Picture: Archant

Food

There are some restaurants you walk past and never quite manage to visit. Tavernetta in Ipswich is one such place for me. I’ve often strolled past and had a good nose in the window, but it wasn’t until last week on a pre-cinema date with friends (they serve food from 5.30pm- handy to know) that I managed to finally eat here.

The premise is simple. It’s Italian food - with a Sicilian twist to be precise.

Profiteroles with chocolate mousse  Picture: ArchantProfiteroles with chocolate mousse Picture: Archant

On the menu were instantly recognisable ubiquitous favourites such as calamari, pizza and carbonara. But it was interesting to see some true flavours of Sicily on the menu too – pasta alla Norma – a sweet/sour/savoury pasta dish typical of that slice of Italy, and salted ricotta to top some of the plates – very authentic.

We’d all had pretty big lunches on the day of our visit so weren’t feeling starters, but I ordered one anyway. Lisa and I shared a Sicilian arancini. It’s basically a risotto ball and promised a stuffing of ragu.

While in Rome this kind of street food tends to be small, hot and bite-sized, the Sicilian version is more typically larger (it’ll usually fill the palm of your hand) and with a domed, egg-like shape.

At Tavernetta the portion size and shaping were spot-on, and the crisp crumb surrounding the risotto filling wasn’t greasy in the slightest, but I’m afraid the centre was a bit disappointing really. The predominant flavouring of the rice was saffron and it was very underseasoned. What ragu filling there was – was unremarkable in taste and there was hardly any of it. All we found was a few pieces of egg white, some snippets of meat and peas. It was in desperate need of more seasoning and perhaps a sauce to mop up underneath.

Sicilian arancini  Picture: ArchantSicilian arancini Picture: Archant

From a lukewarm start, we couldn’t deny the deliciousness of all of our main courses. Nicola and Lisa were won over by the pizza menu. Light, airy, puffy and charred with a crisp underside and generous toppings, these hands-down beat anything we’ve chowed down on at chain pizzarias. The sauce, in particular, was really good – not too sweet.

Nicola went for a pizza smothered in ricotta and spinach and said it was great - if crying out for a dusting of nutmeg.

Lisa’s base came topped with a selection of obviously well-kept and high quality cured Italian meats, their fatty edges melting into the mozzarella, creating little wells of salty savouriness.

Anyone on a diet should probably steer clear of what I had for main course – slow cooked pork with herby potatoes.

As is the case on the continent (something I conveniently forgot) most dishes don’t come with vegetables so you’ll want to order a side salad to boost your five a day.

The plate I had was redolent of dishes I’ve eaten in Umbria, deep in Italy’s farming heartland. Rolls of soft belly pork were seasoned boldly with herbs and garlic, leading outwards to a crispy, puffy layer of crackling – and a very generous portion too. There was a tad too much fat between the meat for my liking, but some folk love a bit of that.

On the side was a plentiful portion of flavoursome, excellently seasoned, soft fried potatoes. It was a home-style plate of comfort food.

Of course we had to try desserts afterwards. I wasn’t too sure about the profiteroles. They didn’t seem homemade (although I could, as ever, be wrong). The choux pastry was a bit dry, the cream inside stingy for the size of the puffs, and the outside had been covered in an odd kind of milk chocolate mousse. It wasn’t for me. Saying that the other girls liked them.

Nicola was revealingly quiet as she dove into a Martini glass of tiramisu - which was definitely homemade. Paradoxically rich whilst also being featherlight, it was a nice, simple, clean version of a classic. The balance of coffee, booze and chocolate was just right and (bar my sampling) she gobbled it up very quickly.

Lisa ordered a lemon cheesecake which, again, we weren’t sure was homemade. It was pleasant enough and not too sweet, but could have done with a bit more zing and zest.

Service

Friendly and accommodating without being overwhelming and ‘in your face’.

Ambiance

“Ooh it’s nice in here!” Nicola exclaimed as we walked through the bar and took a seat in the dining area at the back. Tavernetta is certainly more cavernous than first glances suggest.

It has the feel of a relaxed bistro/bar with simple wooden tables and chairs. Not fancy but it’s not trying to be.

Drinks

There’s a small wine list and some Italian beers and regular soft drinks. The smallest measure of wine was a 175ml so the drivers (Lisa and I) stuck to lemonade while Nicola supped on a light Italian lager – ideal with pizza.

Parking

The closest is Cromwell Square which can get very very packed. Otherwise there’s Cardinal Park or parking on Portman Road – all within five minutes’ walk.

Price

About average for this kind of food although it would have felt better value if we’d known all the desserts were homemade. It was just over £60 for one starter, three drinks, three main courses and three desserts.

Toilets

Clean and fresh. Nicola (who has a toddler) noted a baby changing table which she was pleased about. On this point, there were also high chairs in the restaurant, so it’s clearly family-friendly.

Accessibility

The restaurant has a split dining area so if you have a wheelchair or mobility issues you may want to call ahead and request a table on the lower level.

Highlight

The pizzas. Extremely tasty and well-made.

Summary

If you’re after a no-nonsense early dinner, this could fit the bill for you. We’ll definitely go back for pizza pre or post cinema in the future.

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