From Italy with love
PUBLISHED: 13:35 31 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:35 31 October 2019
Tucked away in Chiswell Green is a delicious little taste of Italy. Have you discovered Valentina’s café yet? Head over there for amazing home-made pasta and gelato, or a coffee and pastry, and meet Valentina and Alberto, who offer a friendly welcome to their own little corner of Italy, here in Hertfordshire!
They have just celebrated their first birthday at the café, and are now very much part of the local community. With a son in the local primary school, they know lots of the families and it is a popular spot for after-school drop off, to grab a table for a quick meeting or to do some work (they open 9am-4pm except Sundays). As they are quite close to the park, gelato has been very popular in the summer months, and you can also buy pasta to take home for an easy after-school tea.
Valentina herself makes the most wonderful fresh spaghetti, tagliatelli, gnocchi, lasagne and ravioli. There is a small counter where you can see what is on offer that day, but you can also just ask, as they often have other pastas available in the tiny kitchen, or can make some for you for next time you call in. You can eat in the cafeé (there are six tables inside, and a few outside), or buy to take home.
Alberto makes the gelato, and he told me that he trained at the gelato University in Bologna; the Italians take gelato very seriously! In Italy, Alberto explained, they eat gelato all year round, whereas we tend to see it as a summer treat. At the café you can buy a cone or small tub to eat there, or buy a larger tub to take home for after dinner.
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Alberto is from Sardinia, and last time I was there I remember families hanging out in the town square, with thick coats on, eating gelato of the most incredible varieties and the counter here reflects that, with all sorts of flavours that you just can't buy in the supermarket. Alberto changes the flavours to be seasonal, and often uses fruit from St Albans charter market; some of their most popular flavours include vanilla and black cherry, coffee, and lemon sorbet.
The biscuits and cakes on the counter are very pretty and appealing, displayed on plates and cake stands. They are imported from Italy for that authentic flavour. I had a lovely pistachio cannoli last time I went in, and another time bought vanilla heart-shaped biscuits. Prices are very reasonable, and you can buy one or two to have with a coffee, or take a bagful home - a lovely gift.
They are getting busy at the moment with evening bookings; you can hire the whole place for a private dinner.The cafe seats up to 18 and Valentina will work out the menu with you or you can choose from the winter set menu; when we chatted they were prepping fresh tagliatelle with fish ragu, parmigiana, asparagus tart and ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta for a party. Valentina was making a tiramisu birthday cake (which sounds amazing) and they offer Prosecco, Italian wines and Sardinian beer.
Their Christmas set menu is £29 and includes antipasto or lentil soup, ravioli or polpettone, grilled vegetables or salad, tiramisu or panettone and a glass of Prosecco (book on 07873 720826). As this is an Italian café, they of course, have a decent children's menu too, which is £13.
Panettone has just arrived in the café for the Christmas season, and you will be able to get a slice toasted to have with your coffee, either with jam, marmalade or gelato. Panettone with some of Alberto's gelato sounds like a no-stress alternative to Christmas pudding.
A lovely independent in Chiswell Green; do pop in and show them your support!