Restaurant review: Antonietta

Richard Bath reviews Antonietta restaurant in Edinburgh.

WHAT IS IT? Antonietta is a new Italian restaurant from the company that owns the venerable Vittoria’s on Leith Walk. It opened on 1 December on the site of the much-loved La Favorita (which still has a small takeaway presence at the end of the site).

WHERE IS IT? It’s halfway down Leith Walk, which – despite being bedevilled by the seemingly never-ending tram works – has been transformed. The strip between Edinburgh proper and its newly hip satellite is now rammed full of delis and chi-chi coffee shops selling exquisite gateaux, although some of the old stagers are (thankfully) hanging in there.

WHAT’S ITS SCHTICK? Antonietta’s menu has the disclaimer that “we know that our twist on Italian food is different, so don’t hesitate to ask our guys to explain anything that you aren’t sure about”. In truth, the most immediately obvious difference from its predecessor, La Favorita, is the colour scheme – it’s a mixture of gaudy turquoise and shocking pink, the sort of place you’d imagine bubblegum popsters Aqua could have filmed their iconic I’m A Barbie Girl video. Throw in some rustic crockery and golden cutlery and you’ve got an overtly Mediterranean vibe.

Antonietta - carpaccio Antonietta -

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FOOD? Actually, it was very good. We started off with a couple of small plates, with the carpaccio – which came with a cipriani sauce, parmesan, and fried capers – proving underwhelming, but the three big balls of squash arancini (tallegio with butternut squash and pink aoili) turning out to be a wonderful surprise that I’d order again in a heartbeat.

Out of curiosity, we tried the aubergine fries and enjoyed heavily-battered shoelace chips with a consistency similar to whitebait. For the avoidance of doubt, we really enjoyed them.

We then moved on to a pasta course with a quietly impressive crab linguine laced with chillis, and an absolutely glorious plate of beef and nduja mafaldine, with the slow-cooked beef meshing with the deep percussive flavours of the ndjua (think an Italian version of chorizo) and whipped ricotta, and served with the flat wide Savoyarde pasta.

Although labouring with calorie overload, we tried to munch our way through a “When Two Romans Meet” pizza, which our very informative waiter described as “the nearest thing you can get to a carbonara pizza”. We only made it two thirds of the way through, but it was indeed excellent, if a little doughy around the outside.

Despite a really inviting dessert menu that ranged from the traditional (tiramisu and gelato) to the novel (Dolce & Not Gabbana Pizza or Nutella Gnocchi), we just couldn’t fit any more in and had to waddle off home puddingless.

THE FRIPPERIES: There was much to like about Antonietta. The service was friendly and efficient, there are a wide range of vegetarian options, and all the pizzas can be prepared with a gluten-free base. As for the booze, there are a commendably wide range of slushtails, cocktails, and mocktails, while the wine list is unsurprisingly all-Italian and starts with the cheapest bottle of wine at £24.

FINAL RECKONING? Depending on what you eat, it is very good value. The small plates range from £7.50 (bruschetta) to £15 (carpaccio) but most were a reasonable £8. The pizzas ranged from £10 to £14, the pastas from £9.50 to £14, and the mains from £9.50 (cannellini and figs) to £17.50 (hake fillet). The puddings ranged from £7 to £9.50, but I’m afraid I cannot judge whether or not that qualifies as value for money.

NAME, RANK & NUMBER: Antonietta, 325-331 Leith Walk, Edinburgh EH6 8SA. 0131 554 2430. Open Mon-Thurs 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sun 12-10pm.

Read more news and reviews on Scottish Field’s food and drink pages, in association with Cask & Still magazine.

Plus, don’t miss Blair Bowman’s whisky column in the January issue of Scottish Field magazine.