What? Traditional Italian
Where? Church Street, Colchester, CO1
How Much? Menu dependent, potentially ouchy for meat lovers, budget friendly for pasta fans
Overall? almost but not quite 8/10
Il Padrino has been open some three years in Colchester and I must confess to not having heard that much about it. To be honest Italian isn’t always something that floats my boat for many reasons, most of which are Ask, Prezzo and the related glut of fake fast Italians on the average high steet. Equally unappealing is the fact that a real, quality Italian is often relatively expensive and pasta makes you fat. It makes me extra fat because I like it with lots of cheese and red wine (bloated sad face). More recently however, I have heard several credible sources sing the praises of Il Padrino, including someone I know to get their wallet out with far less gusto than I do myself. Hmm. Then I had a school night date with two of my favourites, favourites who are up on the short list of people who enjoy a cheesy pile of carbohydrates
more than as much as I do. Double hmmm.
So, Il Padrino. Tucked away on Church St it houses a mildly sparse ground floor seating area and much grander winery-esque basement space where one can enjoy a range of freshly cooked traditional and modern Italian fayre. Decor is mostly classic Mediterranean style with green woodwork. If you’re eating here, definitely ask to be seated downstairs.
Staff were a mixed bag as one doesn’t tend to expect to have to explain how a Pimms is to be served but perhaps I am too snickety on these details. The service of our main courses however was an absolute joy as bought out by (we assumed) the owner/manager with genuine pleasure and unexpected showmanship. What a refreshing difference to get your dinner from someone so clearly proud of what they are bringing to you, and justifiably so.
The menu is mildly irritating by point of there being slightly too much good stuff on it, making it a chore and a half to choose exactly what you want. Lots of meat and shellfish on the options and a pleasing range for the vegetarians amoung us. If you are eating with happy sharers, this is probably the way ahead to sample a good amount of the dishes on offer. I was eating with two people who had already studied the menu furiously online and I was under strict instruction to have their razor clams, which made the elimination process easier for our party.
We all opted for seafood specials to start- one razor clams served pan fried with a sweet but seriously punchy mix of peppers, and two crab gratin served cheesey in the shell. The opinion of my co-diners on this was a muffled grumble of ‘yersh relly nice’ around a gobful of garlic bread. The garlic bread, by the way, is absolutely excellent but will make your pasta main a merry chore to get through unless you are a seasoned belly stretching proffessional.
The main event was carb heavy with Tagliatelle ai Funghi di Bosco (mixed mushrooms, tomatoes, cream), Penne Calabrese (sausage and chilli, quite a serious lot of chilli) and a smoked chicken rissotto (er, smoked chicken and rice). The short version is that it was all very good. The long version escapes me somewhat as I don’t know much about Italian cookery or how to properly describe the nuances of pasta and sauce. I would like to return in days when I haven’t just bought a house and might be able to splash out on a fishtastic special of skate wing or a steak. Ever notice how well proper Italians cook a steak? Musings for another day.
An ‘ample’ pasta course will put you back about a tenner and is very nicely presented with fighting flavour and obviously fresh ingredients- it is well worth it. If you are a dessert fan, go with the small serving or be prepared to take a fairly long recovery period before hitting the sweet menu. Maybe don’t drink a couple of pints or fizzy drinks before you turn up either because such well executed dishes deserve an empty stomach ready to savour them. It isn’t jazzy here and on the outside it looks fairly stereotypical but expect some serious talent beneath the surface at Il Padrino. Expect ‘creamy’ to be seriously oozy and rich and lush and indulgent. Expect ‘chilli’ to be hot and clean and make your nose run a little bit but not in a bad way. Expect huge meat jealousy if someone on a nearby table goes for one of the strictly carniverous dishes as they look pretty spectacular but will roughly double your pasta budget.
It isn’t flawless, but for a weeknight stop with the girls and no dessert, I recommend it here. I hope in months to come I may also be able to recommend it as a no-holds-blow-out-three-courses-coffee-and-wine location too but time will tell on that score. Don’t mistake my lack of technical speak for dwindled enthusiasm- Il Padrino ticks all the ‘proper’ Italian boxes, including tinned blood orange San Pelligrino for the designated driver and a comedic oversized black pepper grinder dragged to your table on demand. Who doesn’t love one of those?
check out menus and booking info here