Humble Food At Montanaro’s
Tucked away down a side street in the town of Swadlincote lives Montanaro’s. This little Italian blends itself in between a hairdressers and a cobblers. You could easily walk past Montanaro’s and never know it was there. And that would be a shame. As this place is full of character.
I made my way down there one night for some dinner. I had no idea what I was in for. I knew that on Trip Advisor Montanaro’s had a very high rating.
But with a non-existent website and social media accounts that hadn’t been updated for a long time, I had no idea what I was walking into.
The first thing to notice when you enter the place, is the size.
It is tiny!
I would say that you could fit around 20 people in there. Because of this I would advise booking a table as the chance of you walking in and getting a table is highly unlikely.
Due to Montanaro’s only being open a set number of days I did try and message them on Facebook to make a booking in advance but due to their inactivity I had no response. I gave them a ring the day before and booked myself in.
It was myself and four groups of diners that crowded the small space. You really did get a homely feeling due to everyone being relatively close together. This gave it the feeling that you were eating at home with some close friends. However these close friends are in fact strangers.
Staff wise I could only see 2 people. With a restaurant this small I guess that you don’t want too many staff but at times I think they needed some extra help.
I noticed the chef at the back doing his thing and pumping out everyone’s food. And the lady was doing everything else apart from cooking. I did see her preparing food on occasion though. Literally she was a super woman. I found that her name was Lina so in respect to her I will refer to her by her name.
As I said before Lina was literally a super woman. One minute I would see her taking orders. Then preparing food, serving dishes and then in the back making sure the chef was cooking.
You could see that she was rushed off her feet. Maybe not stressed but dancing close to the edge of a nervous breakdown.
I could feel that the other eaters of Montanaro’s really felt for her as they waited for their food and to be seen to.
I did feel obliged to get up and help take orders. I think that I would be a dab hand waiting tables. A bit of bottle spinning and sprinkling salt down my forearm.
Would you like some parmesan on that. Black Pepper? Of course sir.
For myself it was quite a while before I was handed a menu. I wasn’t in a rush and Lina did not deserve anyone being one of those customers that is a complete ass.
I just hoped that the food that they served was worth the wait and lived up to all the hype that was on Trip Advisor.
I knew that I would get more delight out of a starter than a dessert so I peered at the menu to choose what starter and main I was going to have.
Timballa was my choice for a starter. Goats cheese served with grilled veg on a bruschetta. Sounded like a lot of win to me.
The main was a little harder to pick.
As I was at an Italian I thought that it would be a pasta dish I would have picked. I knew that I wasn’t going to have a pizza as that is plain booorrring. Pizza is nice though.
So even I was suprised when I settled for a fillet steak. The fillet alla pizzaiola.
To save me going on and on about the service, the wait for placing my order and food was a lot longer than what I usually have at restaurants. But I did overhear a conversation.
Well I say overhear. But being in a restaurant that small when you are talking you are pretty much addressing everyone.
Lina said that she should have had another member of staff helping but told them not to come in as it wouldn’t be that busy.
With her rushing around trying to cater for everyone, I think that idea backfired on her.
So yeah. I had to wait longer than usual but the food did make up for it in the end as you will find out.
As I was waiting for my starter to come I noticed on the wall that they only took cash as payment.
Looks like it was a trip to the cash point as I didn’t bring any cash we me or else me waiting on the tables might actually be a good idea.
With no card machine, it was either that they didn’t want to have to pay the fees to use a card machine or this was a front for the Italian mafia to launder money.
I think the former is probably the case but you never know.
Lina came and delivered my starter.
Honestly she is one of the most loveliest people I have seen working at a restaurant. Like I said before you feel like you were eating at home and Lina was your temporary mother that made you feel well looked after.
You know that she didn’t have a bad bone in her at all and she really cared about looking after her customers and making sure they had as fine a dining experience as she could.
The Timballa was a good choice. As with most starters that I get it came with a side salad that was dressed with balsamic vinegar.
The bruschetta was nicely toasted, with a nice crunch giving it a good texture. It had what I think was a garlic butter as each bite gave you a creamy garlic flavour.
Sitting on top of the bruschetta was grilled veg; mushrooms, onions, courgette. On top of all that was a massive red pepper, slightly grilled.
And at the top of the tower was a mound of goats cheese, browned off at the edges.
The dish held together really well. All components complementing each other. The only slight problem I had was that it was difficult cutting into it and trying to get a bit of everything. But getting stuck in with my knife and fork I made easy work out of it.
By the time that I had finished my starter, the rest of my temporary family that I was eating with were finishing up and leaving.
This allowed Lina to focus her time on the rest of us and giving her the chance to chill out and take a breather.
Because of that my wait for my main was reduced.
It has been far too long since I have had the chance to try steak at Craig Eats Food. Slightly not appropriate as I was eating at an Italian but the spicy Napoli tomato sauce gave me that Italian taste so I am not complaining.
And that Napoli sauce was god given!
With capers, chillies, olives and maybe some other ingredients this sauce was incredible. It was at this moment all the waiting that I had to do and the great rating on Trip Advisor made sense.
This was great cooking. Compared to Prezzo this food had heart. And was made real by the chef’s hands.
The steak was a fine cut and was cooked to my liking.
It came with a side salad and some veg. The side salad I didn’t even touch and would have been happy if they had not served it with my meal at all.
This is no complaint but I felt that I had enough food to keep me going.
The veg was made up of potatoes, carrots, red cabbage, peas and courgette. It all tasted fresh and locally sourced.
No shop bought veg here is what im thinking but I may be wrong.
This is one main that I have no regrets choosing at all.
Humble Toilet Review
Due to the size of Montanaro’s I didnt even think they would be able to fit a toilet in. I thought that it would have been a short walk to the Sir Nigel Gresley to use their toilets or find an secluded alley. Not like you would do such a thing.
But located at the back of the restaurant you will find the W.C. And surprisingly it was a fairly big toilet. One of the problems I faced though was after I finished my meal I headed to use the toilet. At this time there was only the members of staff and one couple left. All sound just seemed to stop as I was standing over the toilet.
I swear they could all hear me as there wasn’t much else going on, noise wise in the restaurant. To cover the noise I started to hum loudly. I found myself humming the theme tune to Knight Rider. That Italian food must have influenced my somehow…
As I mentioned before earlier Montanaro’s has a really good rating on Trip Advisor. At the time of this review they are ranked the 10th best restaurant in my home village of good old swadlincote.
From my experience I can see why they are ranked so high. I would love for them to hit that number one spot so if you go eat at Montanaro’s head over to Trip Advisor and leave them a sexy review.
There are only a handful of negative reviews for Montanaro’s. Some of the reviews mentioned about the place being small and the fact that you are part of everyone’s conversation.
I think for the space that they have, they have used it really well. And the fact that you feel like you are eating in someones living room is one of the positive features. It doesn’t give you that commercial feel at all.
I could see this being just like a ma and pa restaurant in Italy. One that had been around for years and years and has been passed down through the family.
I feel there should be more places like this to eat at.
A few of the reviews mention the staff. I think that this is one of the unique features of the place and is something that you need to go and experience yourself.
There were complaints about staff members smelling and being undertrained. None of this I experienced at all. From my perspective I saw a chef cooking great food and Lina being a superwoman, multi-tasking like a mo-fo and making sure everyone was happy with their food experience.
Overall, Montanaro’s is a hidden gem which should get more love and mention than it does. The whole food experience is one that I suggest everyone trying out as I don’t think you will get it anywhere else.
The service on the night that I went, could have been better but everything else makes up for it.
Looking for somewhere to eat then Montanaro’s should be at the top of your list.
Just remember to take cash as they do not do card payments.
Service – 6
Food – 9
Value – 8
Total – 76%
Telephone Number – 01283 220009