Saturday, 6 October 2012

Restaurant review: Di Napoli Ristorante, Corralejo

Seduced by the romance of it all - twinkling fairy lights strung so as to delicately outline the silhouette of a singular palm tree, a wood-effect rustic sign that wouldn't look out of place deep in the Italian countryside- I finally visited this charming Italian eatery on the last day of a 10-day break in Corralejo. That's 10 days of walking past, day and night, my inner foodie staring longingly at those already indulging, until the desire to visit built to a culinary crescendo, and my travelling partner relented.

Descending the characterful stone steps at a near twilight hour, the place lacked that oh-so-elusive concept of "buzz". This was forgivable, what with us British mortals eating at an hour far before any self-respecting Spaniard has even considered their dinner plans, and I have no reason to doubt that a later visit may have resulted in a more lively atmosphere greeting us.

 Yet something else was missing too.  Instead of being attentively whisked off our feet as my over-active imagination had allowed me to anticipate (have I mentioned yet how charming and romantic the exterior of this place was? Seriously, it had me at "hola"), we were shrugged at by the waiter and left to make our own way to a table. A waiter, by the way, who was dressed very casually- jeans and a garish t-shirt with the company logo. It was only on the arrival of his colleagues that it became clear they were attired so as to impersonate the Balamory seafront, each one a different colour, trying to outdo the next in the gaudy stakes. At this point I was feeling less seduced, more taken advantage of.  Not the tux and tie place I was expecting after all. *sigh*.

Being British and therefore eternally on the fence (my starry-eyed illusion of a white picket fence was fast morphing into something from the Ronseal ad at this point), we opted for a half-in half out table, still out in the courtyard (more of a corridor) but undercover.

Once seated the service was quick. Our starters were brought out within about 10 minutes, and they felt like a rush job. The gorgeous aroma of the garlic bread warned us of its arrival before it appeared. Sadly, the taste was all in the smell.  The reality was crispy, dry, overcooked and largely flavourless.

A few minutes later the mains turned up. Arriving first, the pizza was very generously sized, which gave me great hopes for the Tortellini Napoli, which was yet to come. 

Being a childhood favourite food which is now far less obtainable in England than it used to be, I had been looking forward to the tortellini since I had glimpsed the menu three days previously (In hindsight, the fact that the menu was printed in five different languages should have been a flashing warning beacon that the restaurant was a tourist trap rather than a purveyor of genuine and decent Italian cuisine).

In comparison to the pizza, the tortellini was presented in a disappointingly small portion, the dish deceptively shallow. Similarly to the garlic bread, it had very little flavour, the sauce more likely than not having originated from an industrial size pre-made jar. To this day, it remains unclear whether the stuffing was meat, mushroom or other. The pizza was a slight improvement on the pasta, but I've had frozen supermarket pizzas with more oomph behind them.

Disappointed, but still peckish, we asked to see the dessert menu, at which point the waitress proceeded to recite it from memory. The usual favourites, such as tiramisu, were mentioned, but I half-heartedly went for the Stracciatella ice cream (Stracciatella roughly equating to chocolate chip and being in no way related to the cheese of the same name). From experience, I was not expecting to be impressed, but it turned out to be the best course of the evening. Gloriously creamy and thick, it vies furiously for the coveted title of best ice cream of the holiday; the only rival coming anywhere near it is the cherry ice cream from Amarena.

To get the most out of this restaurant, I would advise you to sit outside. Not in the outside area of the restaurant-which has its' own charms, such as the delightful gnome garden- but actually outside, on the pavement, where you can enjoy the best part of it, the romance of the fairy lights, without having to endure the drudgery of the food. I wanted to like it, I really did. But for every flavourless piece of pasta I ate, it felt like one of the fairy lights went out. The romantic illusion dwindled. What this place wins in atmosphere points, it instantly loses in terms of food. Which sucks, what with it being a restaurant and all.

3 courses for two people came to 32 Euros (around £25).
Di Napoli, Avenida General Franco/Calle La Red, Corralejo.

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