Restaurant review - Cucina Seventy Three, Whalley
PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 October 2016
Mairead Mahon visits a special Italian restaurant in Whalley
Anyone who travels to Italy usually comes back with a tale of a small, family run restaurant that they just happened to stumble across – oh, and it also had the best pasta. Now, travellers to the fashionable Ribble Valley village of Whalley can recount a similar tale.
Cucina Seventy Three is small, perfectly formed, family run and, as for the best pasta-well, that’s official. They won the award for the Best Pasta in the UK at the national English Italian Awards. Situated on the High Street, it is run by brother and sister, Fabio and Raffaella Fiocca. Fabio cooks and Raffaella is front of house.
They make no secret of the fact they have been inspired by their grandparents’ love of food and cooking and share their belief that if it can be made from scratch, then it should be - whether that’s sausages, bread, ice cream and, of course, the famous pasta. The latter is made with Italian eggs but if the ingredients can’t come from Italy, then they mostly come from Lancashire. In fact, it seems it is only the diners that travel miles to get here; which is just what my dining companion and I did on a busy Saturday night.
The restaurant is compact - under 20 tables - although you can dine al fresco on warm summer evenings. There is enough room between each to give a feeling of space and, if you want to whisper sweet nothings, there is no chance of being overheard!
We were immediately and warmly greeted and taken to our table where we had a few minutes to admire the simple and tastefully understated décor. Yes, the copper pans did belong to the grandparents, as did the huge copper jug which had to be given a suitcase all of its own when it came from their house to Whalley.
We were asked if this was our first visit and, as it was, asked if we would like anything on the menu or wine list explaining: that’s how I found out about the Italian eggs! Drinks first though and there is a good choice of Italian aperitifs and soft drinks. A complimentary selection of interesting breads, including aniseed, with dipping oil, was provided while we sipped and made our choices. The menu isn’t mind bogglingly long but everything is home cooked.
I chose bruschetta with tomatoes and basil - simple but delicious. My companion had the slow cooked calamari in a tomato and chilli sauce - dense enough to add masses of flavour, while still allowing the taste of the calamari to settle on the tongue. They do say that a test of any Italian restaurant is its lasagne and it’s always a test I’m happy to indulge in. Here, it is simply labelled Nonno’s Lasagne and the massive portion has got to be one of the best anywhere. My companion had rib eye steak with roasted tomatoes on the vine and roasted new potatoes. It was all cooked perfectly, including the rare to medium steak that could have been cut with a butter knife.
Neither of us could resist the home-made ice cream, which can be served in a warm brioche: an ice cream sandwich: heaven! We had strawberry ice cream and the fruit-packed flavour was wonderfully intense.
The wines served are all Italian and so, throughout the meal, we took advantage of our waiter’s knowledge. We told him about the South American wine we usually drank and he guided us. Anyway, there is the opportunity to sample all wines in a 70ml glass before committing.
We will certainly be committing to our authentic find right here in Whalley.
73 King Street, Whalley, Clitheroe, BB7 9SW T: 01254 822 462 www.cucinaseventythree.com