Food review: Unico Newmarket "A genuine taste of Italy"

Unico Ristorante Pizzeria Newmarket

Could this be your new favourite restaurant? Uncio on Newmarket high street - Credit: Archant/Simon Weir

We like to keep you up-to-date with all the latest restaurants and though I missed the grand opening of Unico, Newmarket's new family-run Italian eatery, I did manage to book a table within a week of the doors opening. I'm glad I did - because I have a feeling that tables are going to be in serious demand as word gets out.

I admit, I wasn't sure quite what to expect of a restaurant created in what used to be an electrical shop. It's clearly been extensively - and lavishly - made over, though my partner didn't like the logo. "It looks more like an Italian petrol station logo," she said before we walked in. I mention this as it's the closest you're going to get by way of criticism, as once we were through the doors we had an excellent evening.

Inside, you'd be hard put to guess this was ever a retail space. It's been divided up, there's a bar, there are booths, there's a mirror-tiled pizza oven lurking down by the kitchen. There's lots of marble and fancy light fittings, with plants and multi-level ceilings. There's a hubbub of people as it's already busy. There's an instant atmosphere created by the decor, the noise, the warm welcome from the owner - it's like walking not into an Italian restaurant but into a popular restaurant in Italy. 

Unico burrata with caramelized figs and Parma Ham

Burrata with caramelized figs and Parma ham - Credit: Archant/Simon Weir

That powerful sense of place is only reinforced by the food. I'm starting with the burrata (£9.95). This is a snow-white ball of mozarella and cream, served with caramelized figs and Parma ham. I add a crack of black pepper and it's frankly superb: simple, tasty and authentic. 

As a veggie/pescatarian, Ali liked the thought of the burrata but not with the ham. There are good seafood and veggie options and even a vegan section (something I've never seen on a menu in Italy!). She's opted for the roast pumpkin soup (£6.50) which comes with a frankly huge serving of focaccia and a delicious tomato paste. The soup itself is delicious - rich and subtle. It's a huge portion, so I gallantly offer to help with the bread.

Unico roast pumpkin sout

Roast Pumpkin soup - Credit: Archant/Simon Weir

I really like the look of the menu. It's not extensive, but it covers everything you could want - to me it suggests the focus here is on doing the essential dishes and doing them well, rather than trying to offer a version of every Italian dish you've ever heard of. I like the look of the Sorrentine gnocchi, the tagliatelli Sophia Loren, the penne all'Amatriciana... but in the interests of covering all bases like a good reviewer, naturally I go for a pizza. It's not a hardship.

Unico Calabrian pizza

Calabrian-style pizza: masses of mozarella, spicy salami, even spicier nduja and peppers on a light, thin base - Credit: Archant/Simon Weir

As with the rest of the menu, the pizza offerings are focused and authentic (not a hit of pineapple...) Seven pizzas and a calzone - but I opt for the Calabrian (£14.50) topped with spicy salamy, nduja (an even spicier sausage, that spreads like a paste once the skin's removed), peppers and mozzarella. It's not a flat and homogeneous disc, like something you'd get from a chain of delivery pizza places. This is like something you'd find in a village pizzeria in Emilia-Romano or Apulia and it's delicious - so much cheese and such a generous amount of toppings, especially the nduja. Easily the best pizza I've had outside Italy. 

Unico Newmarket salad

Rocket and parmesan salad - fresh, peppery and delicious - Credit: Archant/Simon Weir

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As I didn't think the figs with the starter would quite make up one of my five a day, I've also ordered a side salad of rocket and parmesan (£5.95). It's simple, but fresh, topped with in indulgent drizzle of balsamic.

Unico seafood with linguine

Seafood with linguine: a hugely generous portion. As in, family sized... - Credit: Archant/Simon Weir

I had expected to share the salad with Ali, but she has her hands full with the seafood with linguine - which is one of the largest servings I think I've ever seen. It's absolutely stuffed with seafood and tastes delicious. The shellfish are cooked to perfection, though the prawns had carried on cooking in their shells and were turning a little cotton-woolish in texture. The pasta was sublime... but even with my eager assistance, there was no way we could do justice to the dish. Frankly, it could have fed the pair of us quite happily. 

Pudding, then. I had to take a deep breath before even agreeing to look at the desert menu. But, again, there were too many great sounding options - plus I was conscious that a review should include the desserts. 

Unico chocolate, ricotta and pears

Chocolate, ricotta and pears fashioned into a lightweight but indulgent dessert - Credit: Archant/Simon Weir

It was a good decision.  I opted for the "Cioccolata, Ricotta e Pera" (£6.50) which is chocolate, ricotta and pears: a compact chocolate shell stuffed with mousse and ricotta and pears like heaven on a spoon. It managed to be rich without being sickly and so light that, I barely noticed I was eating it. 

Unico delizia al limone

Delizia al Limone - light and fresh with just a hint of opulence. Delicious - Credit: Archant/Simon Weir

Ali had opted for the Delizia al Limone (£6.75) which delivered a suitably refreshing, sweet zing. The sponge at the heart of it was also feather-light. A fabulous way to finish a meal. 

Overall, it is a superb meal. Service is attentive without being intrusive, the food is simple, well-cooked and full of flavour - a genuine taste of Italy as well as being epically generous in its portions. There's a lovely sense of place in Unico, but it's of Naples rather than Newmarket. With two glasses of wine and some water, our bill is £86.55 - which is definitely at the top end of what I'd expect to pay for three courses in an Italian restaurant. But I think it's worth it: as well as full stomachs, we left with big smiles, already trying to work out when we could come back again. 

Unico, HIgh Street, Newmarket. Tel: 01638 427900

We pay for all our meals and restaurants do not know they are being reviewed. 

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