A taste of Italy in the Home Counties

Some of the dishes available at Strada Harpenden

Some of the dishes available at Strada Harpenden - Credit: Archant

You’re certainly not spoiled for choice when it comes to Italian restaurants in Harpenden, so an eatery really needs something special to raise it above the masses.

Some of the dishes available at Strada Harpenden

Some of the dishes available at Strada Harpenden - Credit: Archant

The town’s branch of Strada, located in Amenbury Lane, delivers on all counts, offering exceptional service, comfortable surroundings and excellent food, ensuring a great meal out at any time of day.

Popping in for lunch on a cold Sunday afternoon, my family was escorted to a private booth in a corner of the restaurant, where our two-year-old daughter was kept amused with crayons while my wife and I browsed the recently updated menu.

The new menu celebrates the culinary diversity of Italy by offering a first-class range of regional dishes boasting authentic flavours and presentation. This isn’t your standard chain restaurant fare, it aims to be a step above the norm and push the boundaries of expectation.

Even the garlic bread offers something extra, with a scattering of rosemary amidst the mozzarella adding depth of flavour, and proved remarkably moreish for all concerned.

For our main courses, my wife chose one of the specials, a prawn risotto which featured juicy tiger prawns, finely cut courgettes, baby plum tomatoes and just a subtle hint of chilli.

She enthused about its depth of flavours, generous amount of prawns, and stylish presentation (it’s not easy making a risotto look glamorous!)… A good choice by all accounts!

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Subtlety has never been my strong point, and I like it hot, so my choice was the vesuvio pizza, with tomato, mozzarella, spicy ‘Nduja pork sausace, salsiccia piccante, spicy roasted red peppers, fresh basil and chilli oil. The perfect way of keeping out the cold on a chilly December afternoon, and absolutely loaded with ingredients, unlike the sparse scattering you see at some restaurants.

Our daughter tucked into a spaghetti bolognaise with minced beef, onion, tomato and herb sauce, and seemed to relish everything she managed to get into her mouth and not splattered across the table, seat, walls and floor. To their credit, the staff didn’t bat an eyelid at all this extra clearing up - the sign of a proper family friendly establishment.

Although my wife was comfortably filled by her risotto, I decided it would be rude to ignore the dessert menu, and selected an Ubriaco affrogato, and iced nougat semifreddo ice cream with a shot of hot fresh expresso and amaretto liqueur to pour over the top. Indulgent? Yes. Delicious? Naturally. A perfect end to an excellent meal.

There’s definitely an attention to detail with the menu which you don’t expect from a chain, and arguably this is one of Strada’s major selling points. So while there might be a large choice of Italian restaurants in Harpenden, Strada has more than enough going for it to stand out from the crowd.