Food 9.5 Drink 8 Atmosphere 8.5 Overall 9
I have dreamed about spending a night at Pasta Loco for far too long... tucking into a glutinous bowl of freshly cut pasta, with the finest glass of red to match. Fortunately, a few weeks ago, my dreams became a reality: I bagged a coveted table for two at Bristol’s finest Italian.
Pasta Loco’s success seems to be growing at a rate faster than their neighbouring restaurants on Cotham Hill, even when those neighbours are the incredibly impressive Bell’s Diner’s little sister Bellita, Spanish tapas King Bravas and Galician maestro Muino. There’s nothing complicated about Pasta Loco, but that’s part of its charm. With a seasonal menu boasting fresh pasta, cured meats, fish, and artisan cheeses, this Italian treat does itself proud amongst some of Bristol’s best. Together with an ensemble of handpicked prime wines, local beer and artisan cocktails, you’ve got yourself a star-studded Italian joint.
A testament to their success, the restaurant was fit to bursting, and rightfully so, with lunch and dinner tables booked up for months into the year. Whether you’re on a shaky first date, or you’re just feeling a bit under-the-weather, the reliably busy environment and tantalising menu will certainly get the wine flowing and the spaghetti slurpin’, so settle in for a cosy, comfortable, cheese-covered few hours of joy. We started by nibbling on some Nocellara olives, followed eagerly by a large glass of Merlot and a pint of local Bristol beer. If you really want to pull the stops out and fancy an evening treat, look no further than their classic Italian Negroni, which they rightfully claim is the finest this side of Florence.
Although Pasta Loco have made a strong stand with their authentic Italian pasta, their culinary skills clearly stretch beyond linguine and spaghetti. For starters, I went for their carrot and cumin bhaji with pickled beetroot, yoghurt and coriander. Delightfully light and crunchy; these flavours had been expertly coerced into a beautiful marriage. As a veg-fanatic, any dish that appreciates the beauty of a pickled beetroot is in my opinion, worthy of immense praise, and the guys at Loco's clearly know how to do their ingredients justice. My fellow diner went for the buttermilk fried turkey breast with bagna cauda (a tongue-tinglingly hot dipping sauce) and radish, which he confirmed ticked all the boxes for flavour, style and satisfaction.
Choosing mains was a tough call, since the array of choice in every dish, both in flavour and ingredients, seemed as if it would be just too much to handle. My final choice was the gnudi (Italian dumplings) of spinach and ricotta with sprouts, pumpkin and chestnuts in silky sage butter. Rather inevitably, it did not disappoint. Never have I enjoyed sprouts this much, especially when smothered in buttery sage and paired with autumnal notes of pumpkin and chestnuts. A cheesy bowl of seasonal comfort with punchy flavours – this is a dish I’ll be thinking about for many days to come… The meat-eater at the table went for the rotollo of wild boar and spinach ragu on a gruyere fondette with rocket. Evidently I cannot vouch for its flavour, though he did claim it was ‘bloody lovely, with a lovely cheesy lovely sauce’... so I'm assuming he enjoyed it.
Having over-indulged in our two courses, we shamefully had left no room for pudding. However, with temptations as great as red wine poached pears with berry compote, and pecorino sardo with truffle honey and biscuits, I’m now pretty disappointed at my former self for rejecting these sweet treats. Considering the fine quality, flawless service and delightful atmosphere of Pasta Loco, the price-tags are justifiable and even –dare I say it- a little modest. Dining out on food of this quality in London would undoubtedly leave you with a bill of double the price.
Pasta Loco has rapidly established itself as a household Bristol name, and there are few Italian restaurants to rival it. This brilliant independent restaurant is made for every evening: with great company, a wonderful atmosphere and stunning food – why not treat yourself? If you like the sound of Pasta Loco then book this instance – its notoriously hard to bag an evening table, but take my advice, it’s worth it!