Written by Andrew Shaw.

Photo: Stephanie Kilgast, Flickr
Photo: Stephanie Kilgast, Flickr

Outside of my granddad’s flat in Lavagna, La Trattoria Da Vincenzo is the most authentic Italian I have ever had. If you want to impress your friends it is pronounced La Traht-To-Ree-Ah, which in English translates to something like ‘an Italian restaurant’.

If you would like to visit, it is open from 12 noon to 2:30pm and then again from 5:30pm until 10 at night and closes on Sundays.

This will have to be a review of their special Valentine’s menu instead of what they usually offer. Any connoisseurs of pizza or garlic bread will have to miss out because when the Head Chef, Vincenzo Tragni, designed his Valentine’s menu he left both of these well-known dishes out. As well as practically every other Italian dish I had heard of.

Just like how we are taught not to judge a book by its cover – and yet ignore that for the rest of our life – you should not judge the outside appearance of La Trattoria too harshly.

Sure, it looks like the sort of council house Charlie Bucket would scoff at, but you get the sense that there is a quiet air of prestige about the place. It does not need to flaunt itself in your face like the bigger, flashier restaurants along the High Street instead preferring to delicately reel you in with excellent word of mouth reviews.

There is only so long I can write this review before mentioning the food – god the food – so I will begin with the starter. I ordered the Antipasto to share with my date, which sounded elegant and exotic. What we got was salami and mortadella with slices of cheese and salad dressing.

It does not sound very appealing? Well if you boil everything down to its root items you can make the Shawshank Redemption sound bland. Basic ingredients or not, the antipasto was really good. If cold cuts of meat are not your thing, the Salsiccia Al Vino Rosso sounded good as did the Caprese. The couple next to me ordered the latter and it looked so much better than the cheese wrapped in ham and tomato that it actually was.

Onto the main. The Pollo Dolcelatte – chicken topped with bacon in a white wine, cream and dolcelatte sauce – caught my eye and was the best meal I had had since Christmas. I tried some of my date’s Agnolotti D’Aragosta – lobster-stuffed pasta served with baby prawns in yet another fancy sauce – and now I am happily considering running into my overdraft just to afford these sorts of meals on a daily basis. Warning: once you eat here, noodles and chicken wraps will no longer be enough to satisfy you.

Unlike the oriental establishments, Italian restaurants can make a decent dessert. From the impressive choice of cakes, tarts and ice cream, we ordered the raspberry cheesecake and the tiramisu. My date swore that they had made the tiramisu with brandy or amaretto and said she felt a little lightheaded at the end.

My cheesecake did not come with a shot of Sambuca so I enjoyed it just fine without alcohol, but it is possibly a good idea to avoid the Italian sponge cake if you are not in the mood for drinking. Or order three and make it a proper night out.

Overall, La Trattoria Da Vincenzo was close to perfect. It may be a little dearer than you would like, but so is a Mercedes and no one complains about the quality of them.

The service was quick and friendly, the food was genuinely outstanding and they played Pavarotti just to include even more of the Italian atmosphere. Two minutes after stepping in, you will forget the English world you left at the door – as well as the McDonalds 500 metres down the road.