Design Your Own Italian Lunch at Al Dente Pasta Bar | The Shambles
News of a brand new Italian pasta bar in Worcester came as a great surprise when it was announced towards the end of last year. I have a huge passion for Italian food made in a simple and more traditional way, and that’s exactly what Piero Palermo had in mind when he opened Al Dente in December 2017. I’ve felt for sometime that Worcester has been lacking something from its existing Italian eateries, until Sugo at The Lamb and Flag recently came along, bringing with them a real taste of Italy. Owner of Al Dente, Piero has worked in several local kitchens including Bolero, Malvern Spa and Benedictos, but right now is his time to shine with his own idea coming into fruition. The upstairs space in The Gallery (formerly The Old Market Hall), became vacant following the closure of meat free establishment Karmic Café just a month before Pio moved in. Although in some ways a very good spot as it over looks the Shambles – ideal for people watching, The Gallery when we visited seemed to be lacking in trade. This didn’t put us off though as we were keen to find out if the new pasta bar was to be one of the city’s local gems.
Al Dente is open from 8am every day except for Sundays; serving breakfast ciabattas, omelettes and Sicilian pancakes, along with a choice of tea or Italian sourced coffee – p.s. from the reviews I’ve read apparently the coffee is superb! Lunch time favourites are available after 11:30am until 4:30pm (restaurant closes at 5:30pm), with choices like ceaser salad, aubergine parmigiana, steak ciabatta and traditional lasagne as well as some lighter options to pick at or share. The set up is a casual café style restaurant with cakes, pastries and coffee served at a counter. We’d assumed that this would be where we’d need to order, but the server came out to the restaurant with menus and we realised it would be table service.
The fun thing about Al Dente and what makes it a little bit different is their pasta bar. Customers can choose their own pasta (incudes a gluten free and wholemeal option), a sauce and toppings from the menu to create their own amazing pasta dish. We loved this idea, but first wanted to try a couple of starters, so we picked out the arancine (£7.50) and the smaller Italian board from the lite bites (£4.95). The crispy arancine balls were filled with risotto rice and the centre oozed melted mozzarella and spinach (a beef ragout alternative is also available). The risotto balls are a great sharer, and would be a lunch meal in their own served up with a classic tomato sauce. I have no doubt that if we went back and asked for anything to be changed or added, then Piero would be happy to oblige. The salad that came with the arancine was simple, fresh and rocket free – hurrah.
Our small Italian board was far from tiny, but was just enough to have a taster (or enough for one), and an ideal choice as we didn’t want to ruin our appetites for the main event. I enjoyed the unique appearance of chickpea fritters, they tasted much like salted chips and are probably worth attempting to have a go at making at home as a relatively healthy snack. The blue cheese, drizzled with a dash of balsamic vinegar was creamy and soft – a cambazola, I think? Both starter choices were
Although all of the food is freshly made by Piero, unfortunately he doesn’t have the facility to make his own pasta onsite at the moment. It is currently being sourced from an Italian chef in Malvern, which is freshly made and supplied to Al Dente daily.
Mr R’s pasta experiment was made up of spaghetti, with a spicy arrabiata sauce (£5.95) and topped with king prawns (£2), plus a big lump of fresh mozzarella (£2). A very simple dish, yes, but it was put together excellently without any fuss, and with all of the flavour. I went with the fresh egg tagliatelle carbonara (£6.95) and topped it with grilled chicken (£2). I absolutely didn’t need the extra chicken as the pasta was very filling and it already had diced pancetta combined within the sauce. The parmesan, starchy pasta water and egg yolk made this a true Carbonara which had an indulgent richness, but it was super yummy. The great thing is that the next time we go, we can make up an entirely different combination, which for some reason feels like a bit of a challenge to try as many as we can. If you work in town even better because they do takeaway pasta boxes too –
Keep an eye out on Al Dente’s Facebook page for changing offers as I’ve seen some great deals like; free hot chocolate for kids, tea / coffee and a cake for £3.95 and kids dine for £6.50. I saw one for a portion of lasagne and a small glass of wine (£9.50) or lasagne and a soft drink (£8.50), and with a free coffee thrown in – naturally I’d take the wine option ? Piero also told us about some exciting news that he’ll be sharing on Facebook very soon, so do make sure you are following for the updates.
Our experience of lunch at Al Dente was very good and it’s somewhere I’d highly recommend giving a try. The city centre location is ideal for popping in after a spot of shopping or in a lunch break from work. It’s a family friendly café / restaurant with a very passionate owner who deserves our support. Go and show them some love!
Cost: £31.35 (food only)
2 sharing starters, 2 pasta mains (with extra toppings)