It’s safe to say RomEat, a tiny, brand new business, hasn’t picked the easiest time to open.
I hope they do well. Very well. It’s owned by young couple Matteo and Sabrina, who have seen an opportunity to bring their Italian street food to Roath. It’s an area they know very well, with chef Matteo spending five years cooking in the immediate area, first at Wellfield’s La Vita and more recently at the renowned Anatonis.
Pizza should be something he understands, then, and one of the key ideas here at RomEat is the ‘by the slice’ menu. That’s long overdue.
It’s a simple set up: a couple of tables no alcohol, wall-mounted menus in three sections: pasta, pizza, suppli and croquettes. Vegetarian and vegan customers have plenty to try, with four of today’s ten slices meat free.
Suppli (differing from Sicilian arancini mainly in the distribution of filling) do a lot for their £2 price tag. A mushroom, sausage and blue cheese makes for a tangy few mouthfuls.
Similarly, their croquettes pull off the trick of seeming a lot lighter than ‘cheesy ball of mashed potato in a fried coating’ has any business being. Nuggets of sausage hide in a swirl of smoked provola, all lifted by a touch of something acidic in the mixture, all making which seems indulgent despite costing a couple of quid.
Unsurprisingly this is pizza in the Roman style, so forget that leopard spot cornicione and enjoy a much crisper base thanks to olive oil in the dough.
Portions are generous: you can- and will- eat very well here, and the menu is family friendly if you need to consider younger eaters. We try three, with the salty ham and mushrooms carrying a good crack of black pepper and the Parma ham, rocket, cherry tomato and Parmesan an instant hit.
They do takeaway, too. At home, another couple of slices topped with just-holding-together potato and more of that smoked provola, coarse herby sausage and just a touch of chilli impresses.
Five sauces, three choices of pasta. I’m in a fork-speary rather than fork-swirly mood, and penne is just indecisive rigatoni, so we go for the latter as a takeaway option. It’s a carbonara rich with cheese and eggs, and with no cream in sight, well seasoned and with the little strips of strongly flavoured guanciale doing the heavy lifting.
‘I’m not going to ask if you want a lot of pepper in your carbonara: I’m just putting it in’, jokes Matteo. Which is fine by me. This sort of place is here to deliver honest home cooking as they remember it from their homeland, and it’s all the better for it.
They know it’s a risk. They know the site has struggled, historically. But they see an opportunity, they know their food is good, and that’s something we can all appreciate now.
With a regular changing menu and a real breadth of choice, RomEat has something for everyone. Right now, I’ll go further: it IS something for everyone. Call me a bluff old romantic, but I can’t help feeling inspired by two young people, clearly in love with what they do, driven to succeed against all the current odds. At a perilous time for the business, they have taken a leap of faith: but at a time when it is more important than ever to support independent, here’s to their success.
RomEat Italian Street Food
123 Albany Road
Every day, 12.00-22.00
YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY:
This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.