13 Clifton Terrace, Edinburgh EH12 5DR
0131 467 7464 www.labruschetta.co.uk
Set Lunch (Tue - Sat)
2 courses: £16.95 | 3 courses: £19.95
Set Dinner (Tue - Fri)
3 courses: £23.95
A la Carte
Stuzzichini: £4.95 - £6.95 | Antipasti: £5.95 - £10.95 | Primi: £11.95 - £20.95
Secondi: £15.95 - £26.95 | Desserts: Didn't get there
Cooking 6.5/10 | Service 4.5/5 | Flavour 4.5/5 | Value 4.5/5
People used to chatter excitedly (and perhaps still do, for all I know) about finding that authentic little restaurant, so like the real thing…not the ersatz versions you find elsewhere.
I pose a question: what, precisely, do we mean by authentic when it comes to restaurants? Let’s take the tiny country of Scotland as an example. Are we talking about the food our ancestors ate? For most that would have been a very tedious diet of oatmeal and kale. Or, depending on your location, supplemented with salted meat, primarily mutton and salted herring? Or are we referring to the dishes most commonly eaten at the present time, in which case a Bill Bryson-type observer existing on pub food might reasonably include Chicken Tikka Masala and Thai Green Curry on his menu of typical Scottish fare? The foodies among us might insist on filling our bill of fare with the country’s finest - beef, venison, fish, seafood - but how much relevance does that have to the diet of the average Scot in 2019?
And we are a country with an incredibly long history. Italy, on the other hand, is only in its second century. Little wonder it is almost impossible to find something which can truly be described as “authentic” Italian. The tomato rich dishes with which we are familiar bear some resemblance to Neapolitan food; however, comparisons require care. In Italy itself, places with an eye to the tourist dollar may well be producing pasta and pizza dishes which are in fact pastiches of Brito-Italian, in other words, what they think the tourists want.
So I’m not going to investigate further the spurious goal of authenticity. There are fine Italian chefs working in Scotland, but I’m not aware of anywhere here specialising in the cucina of Rome or the Veneto or Sicily, never mind the now trendy cucina povera from Puglia in the heel of the country.
For many comfortably off Edinburghers of a certain age, Italian food meant Ristorante Cosmo in Castle Street (no relation to the place of the same name in the Omni Centre). Was that authentic? No. Good food – luxurious - with the gentlest of nods to la bella Italia.
That for me is where La Bruschetta came in. Opened in 2002, it has been quietly going about its business ever since with chef/owner Giovanni Cariello at the stoves. Scampi Breval, for example, fat prawns in a rich sauce with cream, brandy, mustard. I loved it back in the day – too rich for my tastes now. Precise place of origin, who knows? And who cares?
The menu is still set out in traditional Italian style, antipasti, primi, secondi. In the normal Italian way, sides (contorni) are extra. There is an emphasis on fish. That’s why your a la carte selection will be made doubly difficult by a large blackboard full of daily specials, depending upon availability. You want sole or halibut or prawns or lobster? You may well find them there, fairly priced and cooked to perfection. Or, like me you may have fond memories of trips to Milan for risotto or veal in the style of that fair city. You may well find both here, the only difference is that here in Edinburgh you won’t find your credit card melted. The ingredients will always be good – if they’re not fresh they won’t be served. There is much to delight you which is definitely old school – try the pate and remember why that used to be such a favourite. Pasta of course, linguine ai frutti di Mare (don’t tell me that ain’t a classic) or a classic lasagne al forno. And if you’re still worried if you’re getting the real deal, consider your long serving front of house team, Rocco, Rocco and Mario. That’s two and a half Italians – authentic enough for you?
Someone asked me recently whether doing all these reviews had resulted in my losing a love of basic food. I think I always shied away from anything that was substandard; however, my answer was that good food is good food, whether plain or fancy. I have lunched well here with a simple plate of the ripest avocado and the tastiest of crab, followed by a perfectly grilled sole: I have in fact eaten here many times (and I still can’t believe I haven’t reviewed it before): and what I can also state is that I have never, ever had a poor plate of food, never mind a poor meal.
Aside from advising you to book (it is not a large place), here is my final tip. If you want to kid on that you are authentic, pronounce the name correctly. Broo-sk-etta: (the cch is hard).