The day: 19 March 2010, Dinner.
The place: Via delle Cave 51, Padova, Italy
The venue: Trattoria Le Cave
The food: Unreconstructed Seafood Italian
The drinks: Simple but interesting wine list
We discover it in the most serendipitous of ways. We are in Padova for work, living in a completely nondescript neighborghood at the edge of the city. A walk around reveals this very simple looking but, to us, mysteriously enticing venue specialising in seafood. We reason that in an off-neighborhood like this, either they kill their customers with bad fish or they satisfy them to induce them to spread the word to non-residents, and to come back themselves.
And indeed, this is one of those stereotypical Italian restaurants of which unfortunately one sees less and less around: a cuisine based on immaculate ingredients simply but correctly cooked (as opposed to the more frequent category: mediocre ingredients pretentiously and/or faultily cooked). A trattoria, if you will, but one in which (unlike in more chic places) your are seated at a table with a proper tablecloth.
No menu, just the manager standing at the table and asking us what we’d like. Normally this would put us off, but as we said, this place strangely inspires confidence – and to be fair there is a menu outside the restaurant, and after a quick scan we had decided it looked honest. So we ask our attentive manager to prepare a mixed starter of raw and cooked seafood.
‘Do you want to go the whole hog? Because I warn you: if you do, you won’t have space for anything else’
‘Well, no, we want to have space left for a grilled fish afterwards’
‘OK, I’ll take something out then, leave it with me’.
While we wait we munch some complimentary vegetables accompanied by a nice home-made mustard vinaigrette
From then on it was a real feast for the seafood lover. From tuna and swordfish carpaccio
(with good olive oil!).
Raw langoustines (stunning):
Raw local scallop (you can tell you are not in a fine dining restaurant here…but actually the coral which you don’t usually get served is pleasant and, less sweet than the rest, it creates an interesting contrast)
We had also asked for a local speciality, the ‘granseola’ (crab):
and, while we are used to our great local Anstruther crabs, we must say this was a true delicacy. Very different and more ‘dramatic’ in shape, too, as you can see. For those of you with a naturalistic interest, here’s a look at the picturesque back:
And the cooked part begins…
all super-fresh and nicely cooked, no hint of that rubberiness which is the most dreaded feature for this type of item.
And this, this dish of grilled cannolicchi (razor clams) and “mini scallops” (we forgot to note down the local name) was a stunner:
And we finish the ‘starter’ (ehm) with a cooked scallop each:
At this point we supposedly had space left for a grilled seabass, with a couple of grilled squids thrown in for good measure:
Thebass was ever so slightly overcooked but very fragrant, pleasant. The squids just perfect. It was accompanied by unadvertised roast potatoes
which while not helping our waistline surely did appeal to our tastebuds. Oh, yes, they did.
We did not have space for dessert, but we were offered one of several home-produced digestives (we opted for a delicious liquorice based one).
And here goes another old fashioned classic, talcum powder, viava’ and a good brush, the indespensable tools to remove whatever juice or sauce has unfailingly found the way onto your shirt…
All in all, a very good, straight seafood triumph. It does not come cheap (€165 inclusive of a mid-priced and reasonably priced wine), but good fish never does.
And what you get here is that generosity, welcoming hospitality and straigth honesty that alas is no longer as common as it used to be. How many restaurateurs can you imagine offering you so much fish that you won’t have room for the more remunerative desserts?
It was obvious from the word go that our delightful host was there to make sure we went out happy: and we sure did.
Don’t come here if you don’t like seafood because it is literally all they do: but if you do, do!