Pasta lovers, this one’s for you, for La Lombarda – one of the oldest Italian family restaurant in the UK – has returned with a new venue.
Press and Journal food and drink writer Karla Sinclair and I paid a visit to Aberdeen’s longest-established Italian last week – and this hidden gem is undoubtedly going to be very popular within the city.
Located on the corner of King Street at the Castlegate, the trattoria – called Gio’s – launched in December.
A trattoria, as the Gio’s management explained, is sort of halfway between a restaurant and a cafe, with a slightly informal vibe.
And the original La Lombarda venue next door, which has been shut for about a year, will soon be reopening as a fully fledged restaurant in the coming months.
With the business entering its 102nd year of traditional family ownership, the time has come for a fresh start as Chantal Necchi and Tom Simmonds take the reins at Gio’s.
Even before having a peek at the menu, which features a selection of classic dishes from spaghetti bolognese to panna cotta, we knew we’d be in for a treat.
Read on to see what dishes we tasted, and our ratings for each…
Crostini trio – gorgonzola, salsa di spinaci, and bruschetta
As a huge fan of Italian food myself, it’s safe to say I was delighted with how fast our starters were prepared.
First up, the crostini trio, which costs £7.50. From the menu you can choose three options, but the owners selected their favourites for us to try on this occasion.
Our eyes lit up when we clocked the bruschetta, so we opted to try it before the others.
The freshness of the tomatoes mixed with garlic and basil definitely hit the spot, making it hard for me not to demolish my half.
Next up, the salsa di spinaci (spinach sauce). Although this didn’t look as striking as the bruschetta, the burst of flavours knocked it up to our favourite of the three.
There was something about the creamy spinach and artichoke that we just couldn’t get enough of.
Finally, the gorgonzola (which translates to blue cheese).
Being the most savory option, I was apprehensive about the taste as I had never tried anything like it before.
However, the pairing of prosciutto and honey was delicious. The sweet and salty flavours married together perfectly.
Cannelloni ripieni di zucchini
As much as I love bread, pasta will always hold a special place in my heart, so I was eager to move on to this next dish!
The cannelloni was stuffed with courgettes, peppers, and mascarpone, partnered with their homemade tomato sauce. The dish cost £13.
When I say this tasted like heaven in a bowl, I mean it…
The dish was full of tomatoey and creamy goodness, almost tasting like a saucier version of lasagne.
The sprinkle of cheese on top was also very tasty – and the mix of vegetables in each mouthful added that extra bit of crunch we needed.
I like to think of myself as a carbonara connoisseur – going off the fact I try any carbonara I can get my hands on – so was rather excited about our first main course.
The dish was a combination of spaghetti tossed in eggs, pancetta, pecorino, and black pepper, served with a side dish of extra pecorino for you to make it as cheesy as you like.
This hands down had to be one of the best carbonaras that Karla and I had ever tasted.
Often, finely chopped pancetta can be chewy and unpleasant in any dish, but in this case, it was quite the opposite.
With a thick, creamy coating, the spaghetti was incredible and offered the perfect balance of cheese, along with slightly salty flavours from the pancetta.
May I add, the large portion of pasta you receive is well worth the price of £14. If I could rate it higher than five I would.
Pan fried monk fish on a tomato casserole with crispy polenta
Luckily for us, we got to try two dishes for our main course. The second was right up Karla’s street.
The chef’s special contained pan-fried monk fish on a bed of bean, chorizo, and spinach casserole with crispy polenta on the side.
It was definitely a day for trying new things for me as I hadn’t ever gone further than trying your standard haddock from a fish and chip shop. And I was not disappointed.
The fish pulled apart and was cooked to perfection. Trying it along with the tomato sauce and the crust from the polenta was like an explosion of flavours in my mouth.
Karla loved the fact that there were plenty of textures in the dish, too. She thought the hearty casserole pulled everything together.
Now, for the star of the show – the dessert.
I’ll hold my hands up and say that I’m more of a starter and main person when I go out for food but that might have to change after this pudding.
For our final dish, we were served tiramisu, priced at £7. However, this wasn’t just your regular tiramisu.
It included all the classic components like coffee-soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese. However, the presentation was like no other we had ever seen.
The ladyfingers had the crumbly texture of a biscuit with a layer of rich chocolate sauce, topped with generous scoops of mascarpone – and yes, it tasted just as good as it looked, if not better.
It’s safe to say that we will without a doubt be back to Gio’s by La Lombarda for round two.