PANETTI’S Café Bistro in Bedale came highly recommended.

An acquaintance said his Italian son-in-law reckoned it served the most authentic Italian food he had eaten in this country.

So we were somewhat taken aback when our initial scan of the menu at the Bedale establishment found those well-known Italian classics cottage pie and haddock and chips.

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The Italian dishes are there, they just take a little finding and to be fair Panetti’s doesn’t sell itself as full-on Italian, simply saying that it serves “good food with Italian flair” which pretty much nails it.

Let’s face it labels these days are pretty misleading. A few years ago the buzzword was fusion cooking. Well, Panetti’s have been doing Anglo-Italian fusion food since 2001 when Sicilian-born Nino Curia and wife Karen opened in the town’s North End.

They came from the fabled Romanby Court in Northallerton where this Anglo-Italian template was first perfected. All those Alvertonians who wistfully lament the passing of what was a culinary institution in the county town should just trot the few miles down the A684 where the spirit of the Romanby Court lives on.

Last Saturday night Panetti’s was very busy with customers who like this blend of the traditional and modern. And given the repartee between the staff and some of the diners, it is clear they do very well from their regulars.

First up we liked being able to park right outside the front door of the pretty flower-bedecked stone-faced building. There are not many town centre restaurants where one can do that.

We were also attracted by the little window advertisement for Aperol Spritz cocktails and we ordered two of those as we sat down at one of two remaining tables in the rearmost of two downstairs dining spaces. There is a larger room upstairs used for large parties and events.

The cocktails went down fine (they could have been a little more chilled, it should be said) as we got the measure of the printed menu and a short list of blackboard specials. There were small number of pasta and pizza dishes and, among the specials, a seafood risotto.

From a large selection of starters which included potted smoked haddock and baked flat mushrooms, Sylvia chose prawn cocktail (£5.50) and I selected some Sicilian arancini risotto balls (£4.95).

The prawns were a decent size and juicy with no sign of sogginess. The Marie Rose sauce was light and fresh and the accompanying salad crisply crunchy with iceberg lettuce. There was also brown bread and butter.

My risotto balls were breadcrumbed, lightly deep-fried and served with a little pot of Bolognese sauce. The crispy exterior and the moist rice and peas inside were a lovely combination.

My only complaint, perverse perhaps, was that two of the billiard ball-sized arancini would have sufficed for a starter. I ate the third somewhat guiltily hoping I would have room for my main and a dessert.

I did, almost. My chicken Toscana (£12.50) was a baked, skinless, tender breast served with porcini mushrooms, a slice of polenta, shallots, asparagus instead of the billed artichoke, tomato and an very good white wine sauce.

Sylvia’s duck breast was cooked medium as requested – again very tender – and nestled on stir-fry vegetables (another twist on the fusion theme) with a rich plum sauce.

Both main courses were served with new potatoes and well-cooked vegetables – broccoli, green beans, carrot and turnip – and were of sensible proportions so thoughts did turn to something sweet to finish.

Deserts were all £5.95 with those all-time favourites sticky toffee pudding, crème brulee, banoffee pie and tiramisu among them.

We decided to share a strawberry meringue sundae, a tall glass of cracking English strawberries, chunks of meringue, Brymor vanilla ice cream all bound together with whipped cream, strawberry sauce and topped with chocolate twirls. No complaints there.

This was a well cooked meal. Sylvia described it as solid if unspectacular. The dining areas are compact which means tables are pretty close together and conversations need to be conducted discreetly.

Apart from an initial delay waiting for our Aperol Spritz, service was very personable and brisk. We arrived at 7.30 and were out again before 9pm.

The bill too was middle of the road - £63 – which included two glasses of Italian house wine and a mineral water.

FOOD FACTS

Panetti’s Cafe/Bistro, 7 North End, Bedale, DL8 1AF

Tel: 01677 425270

Web: panettis.co.uk

Open: Tues-Sat 10am-8.30pm (9pm).

Disabled access

Vegetarian options available.

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8, Service 9, Surroundings 7, Value 7