How you can get a taste of the Almafi coast in a family-run city cafe
On a rainy day in June it wasn’t quite the Almafi coast, but Pani’s cafe in Newcastle was about as close as I could get.
The popular eatery opened in 1995 and in that time has established itself as a firm favourite with locals.
Tucked away on High Bridge, the family run business always seems to be bustling, no matter what the hour of the day or night it is.
As soon as I stepped through the door I’m greeted with shouts of “ciao!” from the friendly staff who then usher me to a trendy leather booth by the bar where I make myself comfortable before surveying the cosy surroundings.
Exposed brick and wood panelling adorn the walls, while wooden tables are lit by the glow of artful lighting –customers really are sitting pretty.
Pani’s says it was the first true Italian street cafe in Newcastle, and to this day it definitely is among the most stylish – and judging by the number of customers, one of the most popular.
And the menu offers foodies an impressive range of dishes, with traditional Sardinian dishes like Malloreddus and Fregola on offer, along with wines such as Vermentino and Cannonau.
All dishes use fresh ingredients, imported directly from Italy or from locally-sourced suppliers.
I kicked off the meal with Pani’s bruschetta, made up of black olive pate, sun-dried tomato and provolone cheese.
Priced at £4.50, the black olive pate seemed to give it the edge over the bruschetta that I have had at restaurants elsewhere.
Meanwhile my friend went for a cheesy garlic bread, which was a sizeable portion, considering it was priced at just £2.95.
Although not the most attractive of starters to look at it, it certainly delivered, incorporating just the right amount of cheese so it was not overpowering.
To drink I went for a glass of the fresh-tasting Vermentino white wine, at £5.65, and my dining companion had a Malfy Con Arancia gin and tonic at £5.60.
Presented in a glamorous big gin glass, the orange flavoured gin went down a treat.
For mains, I went for the Cun Sartizzu, made up of Malloreddus pasta with Italian sausage, garlic, chilli, tomato sauce and pecorino cheese.
And costing just £7.50, it was surprisingly reasonable for what is basically the carb-lover’s equivalent of heaven in a bowl.
My friend’s main dish was Italian favourite lasagne al forno, priced at £6.95, and was said to be as tasty as it looked – and it looked incredibly mouth-watering!
To finish our meal I went for a cappuccino, at £1.95, and we shared a Tiramisu, costing £4.95.
The dessert was delicious and definitely worth sharing as it would have been a struggle to eat alone after a heavy meal.
The coffee in Pani’s is some of the best I have had outside of Italy.
And that is truly the ethos of Pani’s – step inside and it is as authentically Italian as you can get without going to Italy.
We’ll be going back.