You normally know what you’re getting with an Italian restaurant in this country.
There will be the familiar extensive selection of pasta dishes and pizzas, with the usual sauces and toppings to which British palates have grown so accustomed.
Butta La Pasta, which has recently opened towards the bottom of London Road, does things a bit differently.
Owner Stephen Ogden has opted for a pared-down menu which changes monthly to reflect the nation’s rich array of regional dishes, many of which will be a revelation to British tongues, while making the most of seasonal ingredients.
Tasting the dishes, it’s hard to believe they were honed at his Sheffield home, in between shifts as a children’s nurse, using only recipe books as a guide on his gastronomic tour of the country of love.
The crab bruschetta nips pleasingly at the taste buds, delivering all the flavours of the sea you would hope for, while the tender, perfectly seasoned courgettes are the standout component of a satisfying antipasto platter.
My Spaghetti Lucia features such a fresh, zingy tomato and anchovy sauce that I’m almost jealous of the prawns swimming in the stuff, while the pasta itself is nicely al dente.
My partner’s lasagne is not what you expect on these shores, packed as it is with homemade meatballs and an intriguing background note of aniseed, but we’re assured this is how it’s done in Naples and if that’s true you can’t help but feel a little jealous of those Neapolitans.
We round off our meal with the lemon tart and homemade peach ice cream, the former striking the perfect balance of sweet and sharp within the soft pastry, and the latter bursting with chunks of fresh fruit.
The stripped back aesthetic, from the striking black tiled facade to the bare walls livened up by a handful of scenic posters, complement the bold approach in the kitchen.
It’s bring your own bottle for now but don’t miss out on the freshly made lemonade, which was just the burst of Italian sunshine we needed now normal order had been restored in this rarest of British summers.
Since we visited, a new Sicilian menu has been rolled out, but the signature dish of Spaghetti Lucia has thankfully made the cut, alongside plenty of tempting new additions.
Stephen quit the day job to open his first restaurant, having run a series of pop-ups in Heeley, but nursing’s loss is definitely a big gain for Sheffield’s culinary scene.
Our meal came to £45.50, including two lemonades.