No matter what city you live in, Italian restaurants are ten a penny. Decent Italian restaurants on the other hand, are often a little harder to find. You know the ones I mean.. the ones where you get deliciously thin and crisp pizzas.. or proper Italian carbonara with fresh egg (not like the creamy slop you find most places). More often than not, I always find that the best ones are where they make everything from scratch and import their ingredients to get that authentic taste. And usually they’re in the most unexpected of places. Paradiso in Newcastle is one of those places, tucked in the little alley next to Bierrex (formerly Popolo). But they’re not a traditional Italian in the sense that all they offer is a range of tasty pizza / pasta combinations. They offer more of an authentic taste of the Mediterranean with a few eclectic additions. Their menu is a bit of a mixed bag with the odd Moroccan and Thai dishes sitting alongside more traditional Italian ones, but they definitely manage to pull it off. I’ve been a few times, both on a lunch time and on evening, but it’s been a while since my last visit. So when I was invited along a few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist seeing how their menu fared.
We must’ve both been in the mood for seafood since we ordered a feast of mussels, prawns, crab and seabass! For starters, we tucked into coriander, ginger and chilli grilled tiger prawns, and Thai style mussels served in a coconut milk, lime, chilli, garlic and lemongrass sauce. There are three things that are always consistent with Paradiso: price, portion size and freshness. The menu offers a range of dishes but there’s nothing on there over £20 so even if you’re ordering a la carte, you don’t feel like you’re breaking the bank. The portion sizes are ALWAYS generous. Our starters were decent enough in size to serve as lunchtime portions, or serve as a main meal if you added a portion of chips or a side! And of course, not to forget quality.. I’d opted for the Thai mussels, since I’ve suddenly developed a taste for coconut in the last few months. Mopped up with some homemade bread, the sauce was the perfect combination of creamy coconut and zesty lime and lemongrass. Deliciously moreish without being sickly.
Our starters were shortly followed by pan fried seabass and Risotto al Granchio. The ristotto was a rich dish served with crab meat, spring onions, chilli, garlic & mascarpone cheese. It was thick and creamy, but the chilli gave it just the right kick to stop it being too rich. The seabass was perfectly cooked with a slightly crisp skin, served with sweet potato and carrot mash, grilled asparagus and tomato pesto. Subtle but delicious and exactly what I wanted. I’ve been craving a lot of fish recently, and this was perfect without feeling too oily. And with the sweet potato and carrot mash, it felt filling without leaving me bloated.. giving me the perfect excuse to steal a couple of forkfulls of the risotto. And although we were stuffed, we somehow managed to save a little room for dessert..
After deliberating the menu for a while (and trying to figure out what we had room left for), we ordered a couple of espresso martinis and decided to go for a classic panna cotta and tiramasu. But then were kindly suprised with the selection of desserts too! The selection is the perfect option for when you can’t quite make your mind up what you’re in the mood for because it gives you little taster of their desserts menu. The great thing about Paradiso’s desserts are that they’re all made freshly in their bakery. Meaning that each one is super fresh and obviously tastes amazing! From the sample we had though, it’s safe to say any of the desserts are worth trying. That is, if you have any room left afterwards. But I can promise you, they’re worth saving room for!