Italian Flavours, Aberdonian Heart
An Italian's guide around Aberdeen's best Italian-inspired restaurants
by Rory Buccheri (@rebelfoodrory)
picture courtesy of the author, unless otherwise stated.
Italians do it best, but which establishments are the real deal in Aberdeen? I use my born talent (100% proud Southerner), together with my well-trained taste buds (23 years of tomato sauce heavy-lifting), and my best sceptical trait (Italians are judgy about their food – let them be), to tell you exactly where it’s at. Among the ones below are some of my favourite restaurants, and a couple that I don’t necessarily feel the need to come back to. Don’t get me wrong: I love me a good overseas adaptation, and I don’t think cuisine should stay the exact same wherever it goes! However, if you are craving authentic Italian food, food that I believe tastes like home, I will offer my expertise to guide you toward that experience.
As a wise Italian once said: life is too short, eat dolce first. In the name of that commitment, I will start from the ones I love.
7 Little Belmont St, AB10
Whenever I step out of Poldino’s door, I know I will come back. It’s not just a restaurant: it’s a place of magic, a room filled with warmth – in my heart, a reminder of a meal enjoyed in the sun of Southern Italy. Catering for every taste, from pasta dishes to pizza to more elaborate fish and meat mains, Poldino’s offers a quantity of dishes without compromising on the quality. If looking for a proper Italian experience, I’d go straight to the pasta or typical one-pots, such as Minestrone or Caciucco Livornese. If I eat pasta out of the comfort of my home, I make sure I go for a special one. Which is why my favourite Poldino’s pasta dish is definitely the Panciotti Capesante e Gamberi. Juicy prawn-filled ravioli served in a silky salmon and wild fennel sauce. If my tastebuds were familiar with the concept of perfection, I think they would employ it on this occasion. If you want to treat yourself, why not pair it to a secondo of Coda di Rospo: monkfish medallions, pan fried, accompanied by capers and cherry tomatoes. Most importantly, immersed in a lemony, zesty sauce guaranteed to make your palate rejoice.
Slideshow: table bread with oil; panciotti capesante e gamberi; coda di rospo.
If you are feeling like pizza instead, there are great options too. I don’t judge you for choosing pizza in a restaurant that has the universe to offer. I will judge you, though, if you pair your pizza, or your main, with a cappuccino. I don’t make the rules: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. In my humble opinion, the pizza Fumo is a good combination of Brit-tasting things (bacon) and more classic Italian flavours. Not bad.
In the spirit of eating dessert first, I cannot speak a single bad word about their dolce selection.
The Tiramisu is, well, proper tiramisu. None of that Britishised crap that is waiting at the end of the article. Luscious, coffee-filled, creamy, moist. There are hardly any better ways to spend your money. And finally: if you go to Poldino’s for the food, I guarantee you will come back for the amazing service, the warmth and spensieratezza that the people in there fill the atmosphere with.
(Starters £3.15-£9) (Mains £7.90-£30) (Wines £6 glass -£23 bottle)
Union Square - Guild St, Aberdeen AB11
Did someone say pizza? A Neapolitan heart beating in Aberdeen, Mozza is a true staple of pizza made the proper, Southern Italian way, for affordable prices. Casual and chill, the ambience itself is suggesting you take it easy, lean in, and enjoy the experience. Your pizza days are numbered. Literally, their pizzas are named by number – but I promise there will be no math to confuse you. The best pizza I have had in Mozza is somewhat of a creative experiment. Not something you’d necessary find in a classic pizzeria in Italy, pizza 11 features a sensational mix of gorgonzola cheese, parma ham, figs and walnuts. Normally I would rate this kind of experiment on the too sweet side, but this particular pizza, with its wonderfully-risen crust, mozzarella and gorgonzola kick, truly offset the sweet tones. Perfect blend. If you are a daring and curious eater, that is!If you enjoy the classic pizzas more, then you can’t go wrong with either pizza 2 or 7, respectively a hearty Margherita and a bolder, mushroom and ham combo. If you are a Russian roulette type of eater, why not go for the lucky 13 Mozza Dare, and see what the chef creates specially for you?
(Starters £4-£7) (Pizzas £5-£10)
Pictured: pizza 11.
554 George St, AB25
Okay, sometimes you just want to stay casual. Down-the-road, Deliveroo’d, walking-distance kind of casual. That’s perfectly fine. If you are inclined to savour a good pizza in the thereabouts of George Street, you might want to pay AJs a visit. I have managed to stay out of their way (and out of temptation’s way) for three years now, and yesterday, ordering from them for the first time, I regretted it. My make-your-own pizza didn’t taste that good (proof that Italians don’t always do it better) – I blame it to poor choices and a lack of ingredients in this arid land called the United Kingdom. The Mediterranean Hot, however (a choice that my partner saw as obvious due to the possibility to set yourself on fire) was a really unexpected gem, a true discovery. It may have to do with the kick of the chicken tandoori, or with the refreshing combo of raw onions and (deadly) jalapeno, but it worked. All pizza places make margherita (cheese and tomato, that it). No reason to wander in AJs if you’re gonna eat that. Be creative. Be a rebel (that’s my motto). Eat the spicy, delicious pizza with questionable ingredients. You won’t regret it.
(Pizzas £10.99 10”; £11.99 12”; £13.99 14”)
80-82 Huntly Street, AB10
Of all the restaurants I tried, I have the feeling that Amore is the one trying to cater to British tastes the most. Nothing against that, just…tomato sauce isn’t actually the best base for everything, you know? For example, when ordering the Ravioli Porcini, I was expecting the typical mushroom-stuffed pasta to come with a cheese or butter sauce, certainly not in a full coating of red tomato. On the other hand, when trying the Cannelloni alla Fiorentina (a quite low-key, unknown dish back in Italy), my experience was positive on the whole: a good, filling portion of oven-baked pasta with a creamy spinach filling. You know, few things speak to the soul like that.
Slideshow: starter of fried calamari; ravioli porcini; cannelloni alla fiorentina.
And while that was probably the highlight of the entire lunch, the starters definitely fell short of the expectations. I make it a point of ordering Tiramisu whenever available, and I am usually easy to impress. Amore’s tiramisu, however, was not worthy of the name. Dry sponge, mascarpone nowhere to be found, and the typical coffee moisture replaced by almond flavouring.
I wouldn’t rate this as the best place, hence the spot at the bottom, but as working-in-the-city lunch type of thing, I think it’s a good deal.
(Special Set Menu £11.99 Mon-Fri, Sun) (Dessert £4.99-£7)
Craving more advice about top eats and drinks in Aberdeen? You can follow Rory on her Instagram page ( @rebelfoodrory ) and always be informed about exciting food opportunities happening in the City!
This review was possible thanks to the Development Trust.