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Italian food just the job

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Pasta, lasagne and bolognese were common suppers when I was growing up, so years ago when I took my boyfriend home to meet my parents for the very first time my mother had lovingly prepared a lasagne for him to enjoy.

Brought up in a family where Italian food was seen as exotic he had never even tried lasagne so was rather panic stricken that he was going to be forced to eat something he didn’t like. But thankfully this fabulous Italian dish won him over – he’s now my husband – and he orders it practically every time he sees it on a menu.

So it was only fitting that I took the Italian food expert, my mother, along to try the new Italian on the Ellon piazza, Via Cassino.

The restaurant has been a cafe bar during the day for some time but has now opened in the evenings for dinner. The place was fairly busy the Friday we visited, mainly couples and families.

The young manager explained that his family are from Cassino, an Italian town located at the foot of Monte Cairo, best known as the site of the abbey of Monte Cassino and the battle during World War II.

The decor is modern and minimal with wooden floors, grey walls, dark furniture and luxurious, dark leather chairs. When seated we were rather bemused that every place setting had the side plates on the right hand side and also no side knives.

However, the young waitress gave us a lovely cheery welcome and she placed warm herby bread and a bottle of water on the table. The menu consisted of the usual Italian fare – antipasti, meat and fish, pasta, pizzas – and our mouths watered as we perused the menus.

With a wide variety of starters to choose from we deliberated over the various types of bruschetta, the calamari and the mussels in white wine and garlic.

I chose the Spinaci Alla Via Cassino. Mushrooms and spinach in a creamy garlic sauce, topped off with breadcrumbs and cheese was a culinary delight and the garlic sauce wasn’t overly garlicky.

Mum went for the Cocktail di Gamerie, pan fried prawns cooked in a light sauce, flavoured with cognac. The prawns were huge and tasty, and came from ‘the fish man’ along the road. So far, so bellissimo!

After seeing the prawns in the starter I was convinced I had made the right choice of a main course – one of my favourite dishes, prawn risotto.

Presented in a delightful, large white bowl, the creamy consistency of the rice mixed with the large juicy prawns and parmesan cheese was fantastic – I cleared the bowl. Mum was clearly enjoying her pan-fried chicken breast served with linguine pomodoro, beautifully presented once again, and another generous portion, however she did think the linguine lacked a bit of seasoning.

And now on to desserts. If truth be told we actually felt a little too full but for reviewing purposes only we decided to soldier on and perhaps indulge in some gelato that Italy is famous for. Unfortunately the manager apologised and said there had been a mix up with the ice cream ingredients (they make their own and have over 20 flavours) and there wasn’t any available that evening.

The only other sweet that they could offer was their ‘sweet of the day’, homemade tiramisu so we ordered one to share.

In fact, when it arrived I thought we had to share with the rest of the restaurant the portion was so big. The huge layers of fluffy mousse and sponge doused in cocoa powder almost covered the plate!

Eventually we tucked in (the waitress hadn’t left a spoon so we had to gaze at it for some time before we managed to flag her down) but we enjoyed the sweet boozy treat, although we would have preferred a stronger coffee flavour.

After the meal the manager came over for a chat and offered us a complimentary Lemoncello liqueur to round off our visit – a nice touch. I thought it was only fitting to give Mama, the Italian expert, the last words and she definitely gave Via Cassino the thumbs up.

Great food, generous portions in a friendly relaxed atmosphere are winning ingredients to entice the villagers of Ellon and surrounding areas out for a fantastic feast of Italian food.