SINCE it opened last year Balcone Italiano at the Bridge House Hotel in Tullamore has built up a wonderful reputation, much of it by word of mouth from satisfied customers.
We recently went along on a Friday evening for the early Bird menu and it was so nice we went back again the following week for lunch! Of course Balcone Italiano has a distinct advantage with award-winning chef (and familiar correspondent on these pages) Paddy Kennedy at the helm.
As always with the Bridge House there is a fabulous steak selection, but since we were in an Italian restaurant we went for pizza and pasta, however, Paddy surprised us with a selection of starter dishes that made choosing an appetizer (starter to you and me) much easier.
Our selection included a delicious Bruschetta made with juicy tomato, basil and virgin olive oil on a garlic ciabatta, there was also a miniature version of Classic Carbonara and a taster version of Spaghetti Funghi which was as the name would suggest spaghetti with mushrooms, cream and parmesan.
For our main courses on the Friday evening we went for Margherita pizza which comes in the traditional style with a thin base and lashings of mozzarella. All the pizzas are made from specially imported Italian flour and they are made from scratch on the premises. You can even see them being made.
I went for the Tagliatelli with Chicken and Spinach which was made with smoked chicken, pine nuts and spinach in a creamed sauce. It was delicious and, as requested, it came with extra pine nuts.
We also had a selection of warm Italian breads with olive oil and butter as a shared side. We also indulged in dessert - a chocolate torte and a chewy meringue. All of which was enjoyed with a half carafe of the house red wine - Rocco Ventosa Montepulliciano d’Abruzzo.
So pleased were we with our experience that we returned during the week for lunch and shared a Lunch Time offer of two courses for just €12. Our choices were Minestrone soup and a full portion of Paddy’s Classic Spaghetti Carbonara. We followed that with a cup of strong coffee that set us up nicely for the afternoon.