Saturday, 4 February 2012

Casanova Italian Restaurant, Cardiff Review, Food Blog


Spaghetti Bolognese; lasagne; garlic bread; pepperoni pizza and tagliatelli carbonara.

There’s no evidence of any of these Italian restaurant clichés on the menu at Casanova’s and this was the first of a number of signs that Mrs G and I were in for a treat......Other good omens included:

A couple of other Cardiff based foodies I’d spoken to over the course of last week were pretty vehement that Casanova is the best Italian restaurant in Cardiff.

The first page of Casanova’s menu announces with pride the quality and seasonality of the produce they use. Organic vegetables are supplied locally from St Hilary riverside market garden; Welsh salt marsh lamb is supplied by J.T.Morgan and fresh fish is bought in from Ashton’s

Finally from the beginning to the end of the evening the service we received was friendly and knowledgeable. One of the owners Luca spoke to us passionately about the business he has built up with his 2 Italian business partners since 2005 and the produce (salamis, wines, oils etc) they buy direct from suppliers in Italy.


Casanova's evening menu is £18 for 2 courses of £24 for 3 courses.

Amuse bouche – Artichoke puree – A dainty little bowl of smooth and earthy Jerusalem artichoke soup drizzled with truffle oil and crisp shoestring potatoes. A lovely start to the meal, this little mouth pleaser demonstrated we weren’t about to eat a bog standard Italian meal.


Starter - Pancetta Arrosto - Slow roast pork belly with black pudding, lentils, baked apple and rosemary oil. Every texture, flavour and aroma worked together perfectly. This is the kind of dish I wish I could knock up in my own kitchen; plenty of meat and bags of flavour.


Starter - Scallop served with chickpea fritter and fennel salad. The beautifully sweet scallop and sharply dressed fennel salad were a perfect marriage. The crisp chickpea fritter was good but I felt it overpowered the delicateness of the scallop. In my opinion another scallop wouldn’t have gone amiss too (especially in light of the £3 supplement on the menu for this dish).


Main - Lamb ragu served with Calabrian pasta and dried ricotta. A supremely meaty sauce scattered with chunks of lamb coated every orifice of the al dente pasta. The creamy dried ricotta was a nice change from the sometimes overwhelming parmesan.


Main - Cassuoela – A traditional Milanese stew jam packed with melt in the mouth pieces of pork shoulder, a coarse cut sausage (heavily seasoned with aniseed), slices of carrot and Savoy cabbage all brought together by a flavoursome vegetable and white wine stock. These humble ingredients combined to produce a dish of regal proportions. This is the kind of wintery comfort food I’d happily eat any night of the week in this frosty weather.


All in the name of reviewing we pushed through the pudding pain barrier.

Tiramisu – I’d heard great things about Casanova’s tiramisu and it didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t on the menu but a brief enquiry later and a plate of the good stuff arrived. With sponge soaked with plenty of booze and quality coffee, rich shards of dark chocolate and plenty of cream and cocoa powder what isn’t there to love?


Torta Caprese –Crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside, this traditional Italian chocolate and almond cake reminded of a gooey chocolate nut brownie. It was served with a nutty chocolate sauce and smooth (homemade tasting) vanilla gelato. Bang on.


Maintaining a fairly low key profile in the Cardiff dining scene, it’s pretty clear Casanova are ticking over happily based on word of mouth. However, in my view they deserve a far higher profile than some of the more famous Cardiff Italian restaurants. If you want to eat some food a little closer to the kind of thing you'd get in Italy then I'd strongly suggest a visit.

The Details: 
Casanova, 13 Quay Street, Cardiff, CF10 1EA
Telephone - 02920344044

22 comments:

  1. My mouth was watering just reading this! So many Italian places serve the cliches - unfortunately because many diners would turn their nose up at the more authentic Italian dishes. I have to confess to not even knowing about this place, but you've made me want to visit!

    Hannah @ Love to Dine
    http://lovetodine.wordpress.com

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    1. Glad my review had that effect. It's amazing how some places manage to fly under the radar. I've been reading their website again today! They do an awesome value lunch which I want to go back for. 2 courses for £10 and the cassuoela is on the menu too.

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    2. Yum yum and triple yum! On my hit list, several people have raved about this place. It sounds like a quieter version of the gorgeous San Carlo Cicchetti in Manchester - stunning Italian cooking, served with panache. Do please go and pester them to open a branch in Cardiff. Makes Jamie's and Carluccio's look like Frankie and Benny's
      http://www.sancarlocicchetti.co.uk/

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  2. I am dribbling as I write, having read what's on the menu for the coming months. My family and I visited Casanova's for the first time in July 2012 following a recommendation by an Italian associate. We travel 90 miles to eat at Casanova's...any excuse to come to Cardiff is a perfect excuse to indulge at this wonderful place with the big smiles. We'll see you very soon, Angelo and friends.

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  3. Wow! A 90 mile trip for a meal is certainly a ringing endorsement. It's been a few months since I've visited. Need to check out the menu.

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  4. Well, we went to this restaurant with our hopes high and our stomachs empty and we left with our hopes and evening dashed and our stomachs still empty (the same of which we could also say about our bank balance). I and my partner were bitterly disappointed with the menu, the service and the cost of this 'true taste of Italy' We wanted wine by the glass as one half of this partnership can't drink any alcohol at all and were told there was only one wine that could be ordered by the glass. The soft drink requested was also not available (lime and soda) Sprite was the only alternative offered. The menu was ridiculously small only 4 options per course and not one starter appealed to either of us so we went for the one course and chose the two lesser of 2 evils (even though one had an additional £4.00 surcharge). The meal arrived as one small chop, 3 small potatoes and 1 carrot - very much like a small childs typical English Sunday roast (hardly a taste of Italy) although beautifully cooked it was for £15.00 a stupidly small portion for the money that we had to wait 1/2 an hour for because we didn't have starters. We weren't offered any top ups on our drinks even though one glass was clearly empty long before the food arrived. Although we had a bottle of what was clearly warm tap water to drink left on the table. We were never re approached to see if everything was satisfactory (maybe they guessed it wasn't). The staff were sharp and snappy when we queried a discrepancy on the bill and for 2 very small main meals and one drink each (remember one was a small glass of sprite - less than a standard can) we were charged nearly £50.00. This was a special weekend away as this was our last weekend before we got married and it totally ruined the evening. We had to stop in a supermarket on the way back to our hotel to buy food because we were still so hungry. The portion sizes were nothing like displayed on this site. Instead of being able to tell everyone about our wonderful weekend away we’ve been telling everyone to stay away from this restaurant. My partner has eaten in restaurants all over the world and rated this the worst they'd ever been/eaten in

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    1. @anonymous - Really sorry to hear you had such a disappointing meal at Casanova. I can only write about the meals that I've had at Casanova - both of which have been delicious. Thanks for sharing your experience and I hope you still managed to have a lovely weekend away.

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    2. Well, that's a very lengthy and detailed rant - and absolutely none of it rings true. I've reviewed restaurants [as well as all sorts of cafes, bistros, bars, hotels, etc.] all over the world for more than 30 years.
      I've known the Casanova since it opened. The food is exceptionally fine - so long as you do not want cheap and bland 'spag bol', and the wine [and grappa!] list chosen with care and dedication.
      The staff: delightful - warm and welcoming and always helpful. My mother is the pickiest eater in the universe, and she loves the Casanova.
      I can offer only this sincere advice - if you should judge by the vehement 'review' above, you will miss out. Be open-minded, be positive! Personally, I would tend to mistrust a 'review' I had already come across on other sites...........

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    3. I've been to Casanova. It's amazing. Best in Cardiff.
      Sorry it's not a Toby Inn - you would do better there by the sounds of things, or maybe a ready meal from Marks n Sparks>?
      you can't expect such a small establishment to have such a huge amount of choice. They choose quality over quantity and a niche rather than mess appeal. It's a rare and wonderful thing.

      Casanovas is a place of literal holiness and yes, you have to pay more than you would at a 2 for 1, however I don't earn much (less than 20k a year) and I would pay double what the charge for the same experience.
      It's gorgeous, clean, fresh food served by passionate owners who are willing to treat you like kings if you share their love of food.
      Their generosity to my father was over the top!

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  5. I'm so happy to see lots of love for Casanova. I've been introduced to it recently and have been lucky enough to be taken there twice. The food and the service has been a cut above both times. This is certainly not your usual pizza and pasta type Italian. I love the fact that there are only a small number of options on the menu, it's definitely a case of quality not quantity as they are extremely well thought out and executed. And I still found it impossible to choose what to have as I don't want to miss out! The service has both times been efficient and friendly. I can't wait for my next visit.

    Fantastic blog, I've been reading it for a while but this is my first comment. I love reading your reviews and am very envious of all the places you've eaten!

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    1. @thriftymum - Glad you like the blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Casanova.

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  6. I'm a Casanova regular. It's one of my favourite restaurants anywhere - the food is wonderful as are the staff.

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    1. @Ben - Cheers for sharing your thoughts.

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  7. I have been to Casanova on more than one occasion and the food has always been exceptional.. Angelo and Luca are very welcoming and warm.. Great food, great staff.. Top drawer

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  8. My wife and I have been going to Casanova's for about 8 years, we first went after reading a glowing review in the Gaurdian. From the first time we went we knew we had stumbled upon something special and since that first visit we've tried to go two to three times a year to sample the seasonal menus.
    I can'trecommend this place highly enough, Luca and Angelo are great hosts and over the years I've noticed the menu and presentation has improved to become more sophisticated without losing any of the authentic Italian tastes that make it such a delight. The food is of superb quality with much of it being sourced from Italy, although it was the first place I sampled Perl Las cheese. Special note should be made about the wine list, sourced from Italy from individual vinyards which gives you great value for such high quality wines.
    My only negative comment is that now I've moved to London I no longer have the option of visiting such a fine resaurant and believe me I thought I'd be able to find something similar but I have yet to find anywhere that offers the same authentic Italian food at anywhere near the value of Casanova's.
    In summary, if you live in or around Cardiff go to Casanova's and enjoy the best Italian food in the city because it is truly a gem and worth every penny, you'll kick yourself for not going there earlier!

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  9. Was there last Thursday. Been about 4 times in the last couple of years. Delicious food, great atmosphere - I would eat there once a week if I could but I live in Holland!

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  10. I sadly recognise the experience of the poster above who complained about food portion size and sub par service. We went 2 years ago and the main course portion size was terribly small, and the table service was very poor. I'm a regular subscriber to this Blog's email and a resident of Vic Park, in case someone accuses me of bad form, and I wish I didn't subscribe to the earlier poster's views. But I do.

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  11. OH took me there last night and it was an absolute joy. The portions were adequate. (This is a restaurant not a food factory. The fresh bread was a good start. I'm not a huge fan of carbs before meals but this bread got me going, so much so I had to re-visit and that's unheard of. The olives were better than most I've been offered in other Italian restaurants too. The menu was no more limited than I would expect of a restaurant which has this number of covers and must cook from fresh and it was supplemented by a number of specials which and I was tempted. A more extensive menu would smack of part cooked, ready prepared or frozen so I was re-assured by the size of the menu. My fillet steak was arguably one of the best I've had on the planet, the mixed peppers were a delight and the roasted potatoes were perfection,. My partner's beef with truffle and parmesan risotto was generously portioned, beautifully presented, mouth watering and delicious. The service was warm, welcoming and outstanding throughout the evening. The cheeseboard was interesting with a couple of home made chutneys and a selection of both English and Italian cheeses accompanied by some really interesting crackers. I look forward to returning sooner rather than later and was more than happy to pay the not inexpensive, (But worth every single penny) bill when presented

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  12. My family have all got hooked on Antonio's fantastic, authentic regional Italian fayre, and Casanova's has become our out and out favourite restaurant in Cardiff. Every birthday, anniversary, graduation is eagerly awaited as an excuse to go and sample a new menu, which never disappoints, and last New Years Eve's multi-course 'taster' menu was utterly exquisite. Frankly, you could have taken two courses out as I was literally fit to burst at the end! (In a good way though!). Bravo Antonio and team. If you haven't yet discovered what real rustic regional Italian flavours are yet, then I most heartily recommend a visit. Now then...wedding anniversary next week - where shall we go for dinner... :)

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    1. @Joe Walker - The tasting menu sounds epic! I must visit for one soon.

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  13. A big thank you to all the staff at Casanova's , we went there for the second time last night for my partners birthday, the food was amazing , the staff were very warm and friendly and chucked in a couple of surprises for my partner, we will be going back very soon , thanks again

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    1. @Colin - Sounds like you had a lush meal. I'm well overdue another visit to Casanova.

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