The Elgano Italian restaurant opened recently on the ground floor of The Elgano hotel on Cathedral Road in Pontcanna, Cardiff.
Run by a group of Italians from Sicily, the menu bears all the hallmarks of a traditional Italian restaurant, from bruschetta and prawn cocktail to pizza, penne arrabbiata, spaghetti bolognese, carbonara and lasagne, as well as a number of authentic desserts including tiramisu and panna cotta.
Dining at Elgano on a weekday evening, it was surprising to see the restaurant so busy and it’s always a good sign when most of the guests are Italian.
To start, we shared a plate of fresh, aromatic garlic and rosemary and tomato and olive breads. These would normally be priced at £2.95 and £3.95 each, respectively.
The bread was followed by Insalata Caprese (£5.95), a salad of sliced mozzarella, juicy tomato, leaves and fresh basil, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Light and refreshing, this went down a treat with the table, although an extra glug of olive oil wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Our next starter dish was the polpette della nonna (£5.95) – pork and beef meatballs. These meatballs were the best I’ve ever tasted and that is no exaggeration. I’ve ordered meatballs a few times before now in Italian restaurants and only too often, they taste bland and uninspiring. However, these were of an impressive size and the meat was tender, flavoured with seasoning and fresh parsley and topped with melted mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves. They sat in a shallow pool of rich, thick tomato sauce, nestled in a crispy, melted cheese shell. Absolutely mouth-watering.
A mountain of calamari fritti (£5.95) consisted of golden-fried squid, served with fresh lemon and a pungent garlic mayonnaise. Although I love fish, I’m quite squeamish about seafood and until now I had never tried squid, but it looked too good to resist. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t actually as fishy or chewy as I expected it to be; the batter simply melted in my mouth, while the squid was succulent and juicy. I didn’t like it enough for me to order it as a dish for myself in future, but the taste and texture definitely wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
A classic prawn cocktail (cocktail di gamberetti, £5.45) was presented so beautifully that it provoked a chorus of “oohs” and “ahhs” upon arriving at our table. A mound of prawns was soaked in a more-ish Thousand Island-style dressing, interspersed with chopped avocado and sprinkled with paprika, nestled among a bed of crisp iceberg lettuce and fresh lemon wedges.
Sticking with the seafood theme, our first main course was spaghetti pescatora (£10.50) – spaghetti tossed with fresh mussels, clams and fish and dressed in a light garlic, white wine and parsley sauce. As you can see, the dish also featured pomegranate seeds; this was a first for me in Italian cuisine, but apparently it is the done thing in Sicily. It worked well in this seafood dish, introducing colour and added flavour.
Next up, we shared a delectable platter of roasted rack of lamb (costolette di agnello, £18.95), smoky, chargrilled chicken (pollo alla griglia, £11.95) and tender sirloin steak (costata di manzo alla griglia, £15.45). All of the meats included in this platter can either be ordered as separate main courses or as a mixed platter, as shown below. I would 100% recommend ordering it as a mixed platter so that you get to taste all the meats; I simply can’t decide which one I liked best, but it was between the lamb and the chicken.
Our final main course was a mixed seafood platter of pan-fried salmon (salmone mare e monti, £13.95) and sea bass (branzino al rosmarino, £14.95) served with skewered rolls of courgette ribbons coated in a herby breadcrumb. This was one of my favourite dishes of the evening; the fish was bursting with flavour and the courgette skewers complemented it perfectly. Again, the dish can either be ordered separately or as a mixed platter.
A traditional tiramisu contained bold, well-defined flavours and perfectly formed layers.
Last but not least, a vanilla panna cotta was topped with a raspberry jelly and whole raspberries. The sharp, fruity topping was a great match for the creamy, smooth panna cotta.
I had a very pleasant evening at Elgano Italian Restaurant and I was genuinely impressed by the authenticity of the food. The menu is honest and simple, just how Italian food should be, while the prices were pretty reasonable too. I’m already planning my next visit!
Elgano Italian Restaurant
58 Cathedral Road
(029) 2025 5853
I was invited to Elgano Italian Restaurant as a guest and my food and drink was provided complimentary. However, I was not obliged to write a positive review.
What’s your favourite Italian dish? Leave a comment in the box below!