Friday, 17th May 2019 – Aldo Zilli and San Carlo Restaurants
A couple more Weston Supper Club events came and went in May and July, with mixed results, the July event being far more successful than this one, which was disappointing in a number of ways.
The Aldo Zilli and San Carlo Restaurants event was run in conjunction with the Daily Telegraph newspaper, and the price was £5 higher than usual as a result (though we did come home with a water bottle each, and there was a professional photographer on hand). We started out in the garden for once, as the weather was actually pleasant enough to go outside, which made a change. It was interesting to see the gardens too, as normally we all end up in the library and the drawing room. Aperitifs were consumed, along with nibbly things, and then William Sitwell welcomed us all and introduced Aldo Zilli to us. We continued to drink Ca’ di Rajo Prosecoo Spumante Extra Dry NV which was a perfectly acceptable alternative to the dreaded (and loathed by me) but inevitable these days gin and tonics.
All good so far, and we then went inside to nibble on canapés, in the shape of beautiful tomatoes, and burrata with prosciutto and focaccia.
These were good but the burrata was far too big for what was essentially meant to be a light starter at most. It was rather too much, and unbalanced with too much cheese and not enough ham. The pecorino ravioli with truffle cream and shaved truffle was uninspiring, the pasta dough heavy and thick, and the cream barely tasting of truffle at all. It was also taking far too long to get food from the kitchen to the tables, probably because there were far more people than normal crammed in. It also made getting out from your seat to go to the loo something of a military exercise!
The wine choices were good though! With the pasta we drank a 2018 Tocco Pecorino from an organic family farm in Alanno, in the Pescara hills. The grape in question is one that had almost vanished from wine making in Italy, but is now going strong again. The wines made from Percorino are not always good but this one was, being redolent of flowers and tropical fruit (pineapple in particular) and full-bodied.
When the main course finally arrived it was also somewhat underwhelming, “Aldo’s Surf and Turf” which was a couple of tiger prawns with Welsh lamb cutlets. The prawns were slightly under, though the lamb was OK. My main objection was that the whole shell was still on the tiger prawns and with space at such a premium, there was a shortage of room to deal with the brain surgery needed to extricate the meat. The radicchio and fennel salad with mint and basil was adequate though hardly exciting, and the rosemary new potatoes did what it says on the tin. If you are excited by potatoes, they were OK, but again nothing special.
Again, the wine made up for it. This time we had a 2016 Poderi la Fenice Rosso Salento made from Negramaro and Malvasia Nera, and like the Pecorino from the province of Lecce. What you get is an intense ruby colour, lots of dark fruits (plum, blackberry) in a full-bodied wine with a moderate amount of tannin that needed the second taste to see past it to the fruit.
For dessert we had a selection of cicchetti with a glass of marsala wine, which were tasty but didn’t really constitute a dish, being neither coherent nor planned as far as I could see. It’s certainly put me off the idea of visiting any of the San Carlo restaurants any time soon.
On the way out we managed to avoid being ambushed by anyone trying to get us to take out a subscription to the Telegraph, or sell us one of Aldo Zilli’s cookbooks, picked up our water bottles, and left!