On an evening in late September, I enjoyed a superlative supper at fine-dining hot-spot Il Pastificio. This well-established gem is a perennial favourite with locals in Penylan. Although the Italian name – which translates as The Pasta Lab – might cause some alarm amongst the #cleaneating brigade, they’d have no reason to fear, as Chef Walter Scoppetta makes clear; there is room for everybody here.
He caters for all tastes – and given prior notice, vegan and gluten-free - as he produces all the menu’s inspired dishes in-house. It is well worth booking a table nearest to the restaurant’s open kitchen, where the friendly Neopolitan welcomes customers, old and new, ensuring a return visit time and again.
Having been taught by his chef mother from eleven years of age, Walter Scoppetta is passionate about Italian food. But don’t expect lasagne or spaghetti Bolognese here; his signature dishes have a bold, inventive flair. He travelled widely all over Italy before arriving in Cardiff, creating waves at Lorenza’s and DaVenditto. He is now the proud proprietor of three spaces in Penylan, including the casual-dining spot at the original location on Wellfield Road and, two doors down, a brand-new gelateria. But the jewel in the crown is the glittering mother-ship at the southern tip of Penylan Road.
Soon after our arrival we feasted on home-made bread, before devouring our hearty starters. Grilled monkfish pieces in a warming butternut squash sauce for me, that zinged to life under a sprinkling of microherbs - red amaranth, lemon balm and coriander. My companion’s fillet steak salad, served with spring onions, chilli and balsamic vinegar was a refreshing treat – and my choice of lunch when I returned the following day.
A recent addition to the restaurant’s menu, the classic Ossobuco from Milan, was a memorable main dish, and a brand new experience for me. The bone marrow-infused veal shank, served on a bed of creamy risotto, was tempered by the tang of herby gremolata; each mouthful offered a spectrum of sensations. My companion’s Paccheri di Mamma Antonia was a masterclass in simplicity, recalling the chef ’s earliest lessons from his mother; fresh pasta with pesto, chilli, tomato, and pecorino cheese - the nearest thing to a hug on a plate.
We both plumped for the same show-stopping dessert, the Torta al Caramello with salted caramel gelato and a welcome shot of espresso. A not-to-be-missed twist on a classic affogato, and a fabulous showcase of the gelateria’s best-selling ice cream. It was a wonderful evening of fresh flavours and ideas, delivered in style by the maestro of his domain.
Il Pastificio Ristorante,
2 Penylan Road,
029 2049 4138.