First look: This Italian restaurant is opening soon in Suffolk

Michele and chef Marian at Rustico in Bury St Edmunds

Michele and chef Marian at Rustico in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Italy is a melting pot of cuisines. Travelling from region to region, what’s on the table changes in synchronicity with the landscape. 

Visit Umbria and you’ll feast on truffles, umbricelli (a pasta unique to the area), lentils and mushrooms. The coast of Sorrento is bright with lemon groves. Lazio’s known for porchetta, carbonara, artichokes. Puglia for amazing seafood, chillies and dishes infused with liquorice.  

It’s quite the edible tapestry, and that posed a quandary for Michele Pagliuca, who’s just about to open Rustico, a brand-new Italian restaurant, Rustico, in Bury St Edmunds with chef Silene Ziglioli. 

Inside Rustico in Bury St Edmunds

Inside Rustico, Bury St Edmunds - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Should they keep the food very regional? Or offer diners a whistlestop tour of Italy? The answer is, while there are plans to further explore the many many unknown and beautiful dishes found across the width and breadth of the country, they’re going to keep it simple to begin with. 

Fresh, hearty, familiar Italian food is being made with love and care at the two-storey property on Risbygate Street – due to open in the next couple of weeks. 

Michele is from southern Italy, but had been living in Lombardi before moving to the UK in 2002 and to Suffolk in 2018, working in bar front of house roles, fostering a dream of eventually opening his own place. 

And that dream is finally coming true. While he welcomes guests, Silene and her husband will be working hard in the ‘engine room’ of the Grade II listed property, dating back to the mid 1700s. 

Pizza at Rustico in Bury St Edmunds

Pizza at Rustico in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

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“It was empty for a few years,” says Michele, “Silene and I came to check it out and loved it straight away. It’s got lots of history. It’s beautiful inside and we’ve refurbished it from top to bottom.” 

The restaurant has two floors, with just the ground floor space opening initially as the business (the only independent Italian in the town) finds its feet. 

Michele, who knows a thing or two about cocktails, has come up with a list of around 10, sitting on a menu alongside excellent wines, largely from Italy, while Silene has divised with a range of dishes that put flavour first. 

“They’re from all over Italy at the moment,” says Michele. “We’re opening with a few dishes from the north and the south, then in a couple of months’ time we’re hoping to do regional themed nights perhaps once a week. Like Sicily, Tuscany, Sardinia. For now we’ve taken a bit of what we like from here and there. Veal from Milan, the lovely pizzas from Campania and Naples, a couple of things from Emilia Romagna.” 

A pasta dish at Rustico in Bury St Edmunds

A pasta dish at Rustico in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Rustico’s signature starter is an antipasti platter of Italian salumi – Parma ham, salami, coppa, San Daniele ham, some provolone cheese. Another is a frittura di mare. A mixture of deep-fried fish (squid, prawns, prawns and sea bass) served up with homemade garlic mayonnaise. 

Pizza is made daily using Italian flour, sauce produced with Italian tomatoes, and real mozzarella cheese, with toppings you’re not going to find at the local takeaway, such as a southern Italian speciality of white sauce with broccoli and chilli sausage. 

There’s handmade pasta, crafted with Suffolk flour too. “We have pappardelle with oxtail ragu,” says Michele, “a lovely lasagne made with a beef and pork ragu, bechamel and fresh pasta, tonnarelli pasta with fresh clams, and stuffed ravioli.” 

Stand out main courses alongside these include braised oxtail with saffron risotto, rolled pork belly stuffed with chestnuts, apricots and sausages, and sea bass with tomatoes and black olives. 

If you’re vegetarian and can’t see anything you like on the menu, ask in advance, and the chefs will do what they can to accommodate you, says Michele, who adds that while the kitchen isn’t gluten-free, they can offer non-gluten pasta and pizza for people who are avoiding, rather than allergic to gluten. 

A pasta dish at Rustico in Bury St Edmunds

A pasta dish at Rustico in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Buratta at Rustico Bury St Edmunds

Buratta at Rustico in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Children can have small plates of much of the pizza or pasta, and the chefs have also made their own breaded chicken fillets. 

As for dolce (or dessert to you and I) options include creamy gelato, chocolate souffle with pistachio gelato, homemade tiramisu and panna cotta with rhubarb and pistachio. 

“We are very excited to open,” beams Michele. “Bury St Edmunds is a lovely town but it doesn’t have a unique Italian restaurant and we both have that passion to bring this here.” 

Keep an eye out for the official opening day on the Rustico Bury St Edmunds Facebook page.