La Grotta, Union Street: Review

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When a restaurant manages to survive for over 30 years in the same location, it’s clear that they’re doing something right. Italian restaurant La Grotta has called number 9 Union Street its home for the last 33 years, now run by the second generation of the Merlino family who have owned the restaurant since it first opened.

Set over two floors, La Grotta may be at street level, but is cellar-like in its appearance with its curved, white walls and low level lighting. Plain wooden tables add to the simple and homely look, while a well stocked bar and semi open-plan kitchen complete the main dining area.

 

La Grotta - Interior

 

The menu at La Grotta is fairly standard Italian: think pizzas, pastas, steaks, veal dishes and more. There’s also a large selection of starters from which to choose, and desserts are advertised on a chalkboard hanging on the bar.

We decided to go for La Grotta’s lunchtime deal, which includes any selected pizza or pasta dish for just £6.50. With the prices of these dishes normally ranging from £7.95 to £8.90, there’s a decent saving to be made – and there are choices for meat eaters, fish fans and vegetarians alike.

I decided on the Fiorentina pizza, topped with tomato sauce, ham, mushroom and cheese and brought over to the table pre-sliced on a wooden board. It really was faultless: the base was fluffy yet crisp on the outside, the toppings plentiful and well distributed over the top of the pizza, and the pizza itself piping hot, having just come out of the oven. It’s not one for those with small appetites though – these pizzas are huge.

 

La Grotta - Fiorentina Pizza

 

After the size of those pizzas, we weren’t planning on having dessert…but all willpower went out the window when the blackboard listing the day’s desserts was brought over to our table. Spotting the tiramisu (£4.95), it was hard to say no…

I was surprised by the size of the portion – it was absolutely enormous – but as I was told when I voiced words to the same effect, “we don’t do anything small here at La Grotta!” Size isn’t everything, though, and I’m pleased to report that the dessert was very well made: the perfect balance between the coffee-soaked sponge, the creamy filling and the generous dusting of cocoa on top. If I’d known that it would be served with cream, I’d have asked for mine without, though: I really don’t think it was needed.

 

La Grotta - Tiramisu

 

With a pizza, a dessert and two soft drinks each coming to just over £30, there’s no denying that this midweek lunch was incredible value for money. The lunchtime and early evening offer is available Monday to Friday, and is well worth taking advantage of – and from what I remember of previous visits, their non-early bird dishes are pretty damn good too. Any business that’s been going strong for over 30 years in the centre of a city that’s heaving with new food and drink businesses is obviously doing something right – and La Grotta’s combination of great decor, great food and great service certainly means that I’ll be going back.

 

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