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[Winchester] Violino

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On the pedestrianised downtown mall, the restaurant is Italian owned. As often the case, with family owned places, he cooks and she runs front of house. Both do their jobs well – although, personally, I’d rather see chef staying in the kitchen cooking than him periodically appearing in the dining room and visiting table sto brust into song.

Front of house exudes that sort of confidence where you just know everything is going to work well and service will be non-intrusive, happening without you really realising that it’s happening. On the culinary side, there’s a shortish menu – particularly shortish on starters, longer on main courses. They incorporate dishes which shriek of northern Italy from where the couple originate. Other dishes appear more “generic Italian”.

My partner went with the night’s “specia” starter – a seafood selection – hot oyster & spinach on the shell, a clam with a tomato/chilli sauce also on the shell, zucchini flower stuffed with crab and fried, hot stuffed shrimp, scallop wrapped in prosciutto and apoato stuffed with seafood. This was all quite intricate cooking and that fact that everything was bang-on was testament to the kitchen’s skill. All tasted lovely.

I’d gone for what was described as “Franco’s creation” – a Portobello mushroom topped with wild mushrooms and parmesan. A poor choice in comparisonto the other starter, this was quite underwhelming with none of the richness that might have been expected from the wild mushrooms.

At this point, we were served a freebie cup of peach soup. This divided us. My partner thought this not overly sweet and reckoned it was a success. On the other hand, I found it very sweet and odd and didn’t like it at all.

For main courses, one plate was a ribeye (not a traditional Italian steak cut in my experience) in a rich, clingy Barolo based sauce. It came with simple roast potatoes which might have benefitted from a little “something” – seasoning, perhaps, or a touch of garlic and rosemary but everything was otherwise fine.

The other plate was unreservedly excellent. Roasted pork fillet was served with apples. Some thought had been given to the fruit. There was a whole baked one that had a good sharpness (perhaps a Granny Smith). There was also some pan fried slices of a different, sweeter apple. Also on the plate, gnocchi dressed in a Gorgonzola sauce. I liked this a lot – the sweetness of the fruit working well with both the pork and cheese.

For the second time on consecutive nights, we ordered desserts which were on the disappointing side. Apple strudel finds its way into the cooking of the far north of Italy, of course. Here, there was delightful filling but the pastry was just flabby with none of the crispness that the dish needs. Alongside, peach ice cream was lovely in itself but it just didn’t work with the strudel.

I reckon I know a good tiramisu when I taste one. And, unfortunately, this wasn’t one. A good one needs a hefty contribution from strong espresso and from booze. Both were lackig in this which meant I was eating something that was just generically “sweet”.

So, not a perfect meal but one generally enjoyable. Violino’s would certainly be on my list of places to visit if ever I was back in the area.

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