I prefer bistro to restaurant, I prefer Roberto to Robert, I prefer Rimini to Reading. And if you’re like minded then I urge you to visit 2 Like Us, the new Italian bistro on Castle Road.
But what makes it so special? It’s intimate and relaxed, as a bistro should be. Roberto is the perfect host. He wants it to be an extension of his home. He greets his guests by name, shakes their hand warmly, guides them to their table. Lino, his partner from Rimini, appears – a rugged George Clooney, kitted up for the kitchen. Their enthusiasm for this venture is contagious. Yes, we say to contemporary Italian cuisine, the wine list, the Italian music drifting in from the kitchen, Roberto’s love for the films of Federico Fellini.
We order a carafe of the house red, Nero D’Avola, and it’s hard to imagine a better red, though if you tired of red or white Roberto has a blue Chardonnay. We go through the menu and with one dish Roberto checks with Lino to make sure they still have it. In a large, impersonal restaurant you might be dismayed that one of the entrees is missing, but here it smacks of only using fresh ingredients, never over-stocking the larder, and there’s usually an alternative, such as a rib-eye steak rather than fillet. They have the salad for my main, but what about sautéed potatoes and Brussels? It’s this informality, this creativity which communicates their desire to please.
So what did we have: Polenta crunch with mushrooms and black truffle oil (a cupcake of the softest grains beneath the perfect crust) a Portabella mushroom gratin and celeriac soup with cheese pastry sticks. Each dish lives up to its billing and, as with some concerts, you wonder if the warm-up act can ever be matched by what’s to come. But no. The grilled aubergine tower and fresh handmade tortelloni filled with butternut squash are equally wonderful. Here it’s the attention to detail which impresses, the beetroot stripe in the pasta, the layers of mozzarella between the sliced aubergine. We end with Macedonia fruit, mascarpone, amaretto and black pepper, the perfect desert. And then Lino pours out the Limoncello into beautiful glasses, which once belonged to Roberto’s grandmother.
Mains start at £11.50 and dropping in for a plate of pasta, a glass of wine and a chat with Roberto would make any evening special. But don’t just take my word for it.
2 Like Us, 127 Castle Road, Bedford, 01234 638823 @2likeusbistro
By Stephen Bywater @authorbywater
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