Josh Ong – Food & Drink Editor
Quench were invited to Santa Maria on St Mary’s street to try out some of their menu.
There’s no denying that within Cardiff, there lies quite the strong Italian community. From Da Mara to Calabrisella, we, as a city, are quite spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a true taste of Italy this side of the Mediterranean. Therefore, given the volume of quality Italian restaurants situated across the various corners of Cardiff, why is it so difficult to get authenticity in the city centre?
Fortunately, here’s where Santa Maria have started to come in. Having opened in February this year, they have succeeded in transforming their small cafe into a cosy, homely restaurant on St Mary’s street, just a stone’s throw away from all of the central action. The location is somewhat perfect, especially given the street’s reputation for being quite the sun-trap for when the good weather finally arrives (perhaps, if is a better word here, given Wales’ notoriety for completely unpredictable weather).
Nevertheless, the inside of the restaurant is one which takes a modern, elegant spin on, what I would describe as, a textbook classic Italian restaurant. With framed artwork dangling from the walls alongside decorative painted plates dotted with Italian phraseology, it combines the best bits of traditional decor with a modern, elegant twist.
Notably, in regards to the food, at the rear of the restaurant lies a signature transparent fronted fridge, filled with a wide variety of Italian charcuterie, cheeses and vegetables, used to create the dishes on the extensive menu, all of which are created in house.
When it comes to the food itself, I was given something you wouldn’t find on your average unexciting Italian-imitating high street menu.
This particular pizza was delightfully refreshing compared to the world of ‘Italian’ stodge that lies out there. The base was thin and crispy and managed to maintain its structural integrity, despite the large selection of roasted vegetables that lay upon it. The dough was a particular highlight, having been proved for 72 hours, allowing for those insatiable charred air-pockets to emerge up; the hallmark of any good pizza. Whilst I’ll often go for the meat option when it comes to pizza toppings, this one was enough to remind me and make me reconsider my usual gravitating towards anything with cured meats on them.
Santa Maria certainly has the foundations to be successful, between the location, staff and desire to pursue authenticity above blindly appealing to the mass market. Granted, I was only able to experience a small portion of their extensive menu, I believe it showed me enough to form a conclusion on the potential that Santa Maria has to offer. Perhaps this summer after an elongated stroll in Bute Park, or after a long days shopping, if you’ve got a hankering for some real Italian food without having to leave the city centre, this place is probably your best bet.
94 St Mary St,