Featured Restaurant: Di Paolo

1st June 2018

22-24 Oak End Way • Gerrards Cross • SL9 8BR • 01753 880 300

Reviewed by Jill Glenn

Di Paolo has a relaxed, confident vibe. There are traditional white tablecloths, cream walls with textile art in orange and ochre, and American standards on the sound system. The cheerful buzz from other tables and the generous welcome add to the impression of a place very much at ease with itself.

The menu is generous, too. Lavish, in fact, and beautifully described. Our mouths are watering before we’re halfway through the list of starters. And, in what I always take to be indicative of a commitment to using the freshest of ingredients and therefore a Good Thing, several dishes are unavailable.

Bread and olives are practically de rigueur these days, so a restaurant needs to make even more effort to distinguish itself from the competition. Here the stand-out component is a splendid focaccia, studded with olives and sun-dried tomatoes, with a dish of (deliciously naughty) salted butter on the side.

We’ve chosen starters that match each other nicely, both consisting of a simple seafood paired with a savoury meatier element. There’s Calamari Alla Griglia Con Cotechino (grilled calamari with timbale of crispy salad, chilli jam, home-made cotechino [sausage], balsamic glazing, basil oil and fried zucchini) for my guest, and Cappesante Con Moretta (toasted scallops in garlic olive oil, parsley with grilled black pudding, served with crispy salad, fresh pomegranate, fried zucchini. and basil olive oil dressing) for me.

This is impressive stuff. The calamari are so tender and fresh, and very well-matched with the lightly spiced sausagemeat. My scallops are delicate, but robust enough to hold their own in the company of the black pudding, and the burst of pomegranate is a clever touch. Both are accompanied by a salad topped with fried zucchini, in the lightest of coatings. I’m not quite sure what they’re doing there (they don’t really seem to go with the rest of the dish) but they’re very delicious in their own right, so we eat and enjoy.

Service is pleasantly paced, so we have plenty of time to digest these generous portions before the main courses arrive. My Filetto Con Profumi (medallions of finest fillet of beef, black truffle from Norcia with wild mushroom paste, beef jus, fried asparagus, garlic bean and micro salad) is another huge offering. The beef is really full of flavour, and well supported by the truffle and wild mushroom concoction, which is rich and dark and demanding of attention. The beans are wonderfully garlicky. The only thing I regret is that I know from the third mouthful that I won’t be able to do it all justice.

Opposite me, Petto Di Pollo Farcito Con Pinoli (breast of corn-fed chicken with pine nuts, roast pancetta, kalamata black olives, red peppers, rosemary, mash, carrots, white wine and fried chiaccherelle) is a neatly packed parcel, stuffed with all manner of good things. There’s much to enjoy. The chicken itself is flavoursome, though perhaps a little on the dry side, and the dish is held together with a lovely gravy, infused with chickeny juices; every last morcel disappears.

We share a simple Semifreddo for dessert. It arrives beautifully domed, elegantly speared by a thin long biscuit. Its mellow creaminess slips down perfectly, with the added bonus of a delicious crunch from the nuts – and the juiciest of strawberries, dipped in chocolate.

Established for seven years, Di Paolo is a real discovery: great Italian food, with high standards both in the kitchen and front of house. Bellissima – or should that be Bellissimo?

STARTERS: £6.50-£11.95 • MAINS: £9.95-£23.90
DESSERTS: £5.90-£8.90 • HOUSE WINE: £17.50

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