After a festive period full of over-indulgence and feasting, I went in search of somewhere to have a light lunch with my sister on our annual January shopping trip. Pani’s Café on High Bridge in Newcastle had been recommended to me before, and I thought that this could be the perfect opportunity to sample some authentic Sardinian dishes.
I could tell that we were in for a fabulous lunch when I saw that the lunchtime queue was almost out of the front door of the café! As we got further into the warmth, my love affair with Pani’s grew and grew – everything from the exposed brickwork, to the shelves of Italian spirits, wines and liqueurs, screamed cosy and continental. To make our wait for a table more entertaining, we were handed a menu full of classic Italian and Sardinian dishes, as well as a selection of tasty-sounding tapas dishes or ‘Taglierini’.
It was just as well we got seated when we did; I think I was on the verge of being consumed by the food envy I had, watching colourful bowls of pasta and fresh salad being served! Finally at the table, Aperol Spritz in hand, I couldn’t wait for our starter of Cheese and Tomato Garlic Bread to arrive. And what a treat it was! Crunchy, garlicky, tomatoey and cheesy – a great start to our Sardinian lunch.
Having spotted ‘Malloreddus’ on the menu whilst waiting in the queue, I was intrigued. Google informed me that Malloreddus Pasta is a type of pasta that originates from the island of Sardinia. It is made from semolina flour and water, and has a canoe-like appearance. Keen to try something different and traditionally Sardinian, I went for the ‘Malloreddus Cun Sartizzu’, or Malloreddus Pasta with Italian sausage, garlic, chilli tomato, and sprinkled with pecorino cheese (another Sardinian favourite). This dish was truly delicious, and although the portion size was extremely generous, the pasta was surprisingly light and I ate the whole lot!
My sister, a seafood fan like myself, went for the ‘Pasta Capesante’, which consisted of fresh egg pasta parcels filled with prawn, scallop, ricotta and mascarpone, coated in a sauce of chilli, garlic, olive oil, and sprinkled with bottarga (salted fish roe). The pasta was thin and jam-packed with the creamy, seafood filling – true luxury.
The waiting staff are a credit to Pani’s Café! They aim to keep Pani’s as authentically Sardinian as they can, and make the experience feel extra special with every ‘Ciao’ and ‘Grazie’. This family-run restaurant is warm and friendly, and the food is delicious and excellent value for money. During my research, I found out that Pani’s Café is as old as me! However, there is no sign of this Sardinian treasure growing tired, and I will certainly be returning for many years to come.
Pro(s): Beautiful food and a welcome change from standard Italian dishes. Friendly staff and a real authentic vibe.
Con(s): The long queues, even on a weekday lunchtime, are irritating, but I can assure you that the food is worth the wait!