The Italian Job

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Pictured: Definitely not Mill Lane.

Cardiff in the summertime is one of the best places on the planet. There are times when you’re safely installed in the beer garden of your choice (probably The Cricketers), strolling through Bute Park with an ice cream or sitting cross-legged on the grass on Llandaff fields with a picnic, when it can feel like paradise.

But there are other times. Times when you’re sat outside an overpriced chain restaurant on Mill Lane watching sunburned stag-do mobs of 20st bald men in identical checked shirts drinking till they puke through their noses. And then you think, “I wish we could be a bit more Italian about things sometimes…”

See, our latin cousins are just that little bit more suave than us – it’s all indie outdoor cafes, Aperol Spritz and people watching, and to top it all off they get to eat some of the best grub in the world.

Well, us Cardiffians may never be quite as cool, but it is possible to get a taste of real Italian style eating without leaving CF10.

When the moon hits your eye…

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Domino’s can do one, quite frankly.

Café Citta is a proper little chunk of Italy plonked right in the middle of Church Street. It’s cramped, noisy, and hot, and it’s fucking brilliant.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and it’s not in a sexy location, rubbing shoulders with such salubrious neighbours as Poundstretcher and a closed betting shop that’s now a Chinese. And also closed.

But then you walk through the door and it just feels like the real deal – like the kind of place where you’d expect to find Hemingway sat in the corner necking grappa, telling dirty jokes with the old men and flirting with the waitresses.

If you walked out the door after your meal and found yourself whisked Tardis-style to the Dorsoduro in Venice, away from all the fat American tourists, it really wouldn’t be that big of a shock.

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Italy on a plate. And in a glass.

The food is great – of course it is, it’s Italian innit? Not that boil-in-the-bag Bella Pasta shite mind you, but proper Italian. I had Caprese for starters – super fresh, sweet tomatoes and perfect creamy mozarella, all swimming in herby olive oil.

Pizza seemed like the way to go for main, and I wasn’t disappointed – the toppings were melt in the mouth garlicky wild mushrooms and crumbled Italian sausage which was really satisfyingly meaty with a hefty spicy kick.

Like all the best ones (see Ffwrnes), Citta’s pizzas are cooked in a wood fired oven too, so the base is light and crisp in all the right places. I’ve had pizza in Italy and New York, and Citta’s is easily as good.

But it’s one of those restaurants that’s about the atmosphere as much as the food though, and for the full experience you want to be in a big group, at least two pints or a good strong cocktail already downed – just in that sweet spot between garrulous and shrill. Order red wine, drink it a bit too quick (because even the cheapest bottle on the menu is great) and spend a couple of hours reminiscing loudly before all being too pissed and full to work out the bill. And imagine you’re doing it all in Italian.

You can probably go for a nicer Italian meal in Cardiff; if you’re going for the old-school Valentine’s day/birthday/apology-for-a-drunken-argument dinner, then Casanova is definitely the testicoli del cane.

But I’m not sure you can go for a more Italian one.

What’s your favourite Italian restaurant in the ‘diff? Let me know in the comments below…

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4 comments

  1. Been going there for years. Fixed the toilet cistern in the Gents for the owners on my first visit and was rewarded with a comp bottle of house red which is gorgeous. Generally have the seafood linguini after a starter of antipasti italiano and it never disappoints. Best italian food i’ve had outside Italy and easily my favourite restaurant in Cardiff. Getting more difficult to get a table now so pre-booking is advisable. Don’t tell too many about it or I’ll never be able to get in 🙂

  2. Café Citta is great. If you haven’t already, try out Calabrisella on Cowbridge Road. Looks like a standard coffee / snack bar from the outside. The food in here, like Café Citta, is sensational though.

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