By Stephen Bywater @authorbywater
Riobello prides itself on being Italian and Giovanni, the owner, welcomes you with the warmth of a Roman holiday. Italian parents, supports Juventus and cultivates conversations with the ease of a man who’s travelled the world and is now determined to have the very best Italian restaurant north of the Alps. His wife (and co-owner) Amanda runs her own business but helps and assists at weekends and whenever she can during the week.
The ambiance is there: red and white chequered tablecloths, black and white family photographs, a bright modern decor and an Italian crooner singing gently in the background. There’s Peroni on draft, bottles of Moretti and a wine list which champions the best Italian wines.
We start our lunch with fried cod pieces on caramelised onions and aromatic herb bread crumbs, as well as a garlic mushroom and mozzarella cheese flan in a filo basket and a warm parmesan cheese base. The cod pieces are delicate and light and perfectly Italian, brimming with authenticity. The garlic mushroom and mozzarella cheese flan packs a delightful punch and it’s impossible to rate one above the other.
For her main Eva, the vegetarian, has an Ortolana Pizza topped with tomato, mozzarella, Mediterranean vegetables, mushrooms and onions. I have the Pollo con funghi (chicken breast in a cream mushroom sauce with diced roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables). Both are superb. The pizza has the soft, dry base you’d expect from an Italian pizza and is decorated with fresh fior di latte mozzarella, strips of fresh courgettes and aubergine. The chicken is perfectly cooked, the sauce is rich and the diced roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables are full of flavour.
Having thoroughly enjoyed our hour of the dolce vita we emerge, south of the bridge, into glorious sunshine. Only one regret, that we didn’t try the pane all’aglio, the smell of which had drifted tantalisingly across to our table.
Having recently appeared on a recent Channel 5 documentary with the fabulous Alex Polizzi and Oliver Peyton, I would thoroughly recommend this place to visit as it offers a little something for everyone to savour and enjoy.