Per Tutti

Best Part: The Lunch Deal!

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Now, we’ve been down this route before, complaining about a place because it has stepped into the shoes of a beloved but now departed restaurant. In this case Per Tutti is occupying the space that in our hearts is forever Singhli, the Indian Street Food restaurant. That we never proclaimed our love for Singhli in these dispatches is due to the fact that they were not open at lunch-time (possibly why they are no longer here?), but it was ace, and it has taken us a long time to work up to visiting it’s replacement. Heaven help whoever moves into the late lamented Panko’s pitch.

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Still, I’m glad we put all that behind us, as Per Tutti is a pleasant addition to Holywell Hill. Now, St Albans needs another Italian restaurant as much as it needs a new Thai place, but Per Tutti claims to have ‘The Best Lunch Deal in Town’, so we would be remiss in out duties if we didn’t check this out. This is quite a claim when you realise it is up against L’Italiana, La Cosa Nostra, Zaza and (shudder) Jamie’s Pizzeria, just considering other pizza-based lunch deals. You could theoretically have pasta as well, but for us they remained a theory.

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None of the starters particularly appealed to us, but we did bump up the deal with a shared bread basket. This was properly lovely, but hot chunks of bread seemingly fresh from the oven and perfect for a chilly winter’s day. What is more, they trusted us enough to leave us with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar bottles, meaning we were spared that annoying moment when you are jousting with your companion’s bread to sup up the precious last few drops of oil.

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For my main I went for a Diavola pizza, the toppings including chicken, pepperoni and chillies. I do think that you can tell at first glance of a pizza whether you are going to enjoy getting to know it or not, and when I saw my intended I knew I was on for a treat. The cheese was an inviting molten yellow, collating into occasional glistening pools around the chunks of chicken or pepperoni slices. The base was doughy and crispy without tasting burnt. The tomato sauce maybe let down proceedings somewhat, being a trifle bland and lacking in bite, but overall I would rate this as the best pizza within a meal deal (without necessarily being the best meal deal).

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Mrs Midweek lunch was delighted with her Fiorentina pizza which she chose without the egg. She felt it lacked something, probably the egg in fact. Overall she had a slight preference for the Cosa Nostra pizza but still rated it one of the best in town, certainly streets ahead of Jamie’s pizza, even though Per Tutti is physically lower down the street.

The look of the place was fairly standard referencing to Italian landmarks with a few nice touches, we especially enjoyed the lampshade made of corrugated cardboard, and being early we were able to nab the prize seat by the window. My wife admired the black and white toilet decorations but would have preferred there to be more than one. For most of our meal it was just us and the waiting staff, which can be awkward but they handled it well. Then, of a sudden, it seemed like the entire population of the nearby school came in together. This was slightly unnerving, I don’t think school children belong in any dining establishment that expects the diners to sit down, but they all seemed well behaved if a trifle loud. I would recommend visiting this place early in the lunch hour, but I would certainly recommend visiting. I for one would be very happy to return, hopefully for their intriguing looking steak night.

And one final thought. If anyone wants to open a new restaurant in St Albans could you consider not making it an Italian or Thai restaurant. We are pretty set for those. How about considering the cuisine of the Americas? A nice Cuban joint could do very nicely, or some Creole or even Alaskan. Just a little bit different. Might be nice. Anyway…

7.9/10

http://www.pertuttirestaurant.co.uk/menus

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St Villa

Best Part: It just fills a niche really nicely!

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Newcomer St. Villa occupies the building formerly used by Kamilo’s restaurant. To go back decades it was once a public toilet but those days really are far behind us . There now stands a beautifully refurbished modern European restaurant. We have a lot of reasonable Italian restaurants with £5.95 lunch deals, this was something a little classier. I was excited before I even saw the  menu and how beautiful this building now looks.

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DECOR

The inside was classy, white and bright with split level dining. There was a polite nod to the en trend grey with the use of certain accessories but St Villa shows the self confidence to do something different with the palette and go paler. I love open airy dining establishments and wondered how different it would feel in the evening. I expect it will somehow manage to be cosy as well.

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THE BEER

It is very unusual for a restaurant (aside from gastro pubs) to offer such a range of guest beers on tap. We were delighted by this, often finding wine too heavy for the  middle of the day. In fact I usually find beer makes me sleepy at this time too but as I was half asleep anyway it didn’t really matter on this occasion. I had a Honker ale which has not only a good name but a refreshing yet round bodied flavour. My husband had some beer as well, though it must have been good as he can’t remember what it was.

THE MENU

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We only looked at the set lunch menu this time which was fairly priced at £12.99 for two courses with an option to pay £1.99 for desert. Mr Midweek lunch felt the menu which featured four choices for each course was very well balanced. As a pescatarian I had a vegetarian and fish option to chose from which both looked lovely. I chose the cod with sautéed potatoes and green beans in a herby dressing.

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For my starter I was unable to resist halloumi with roasted vegetables. This was superb and I particularly enjoyed the unusual pureed roast carrot or squash. My main was certainly good but not so very different from something I would cook at home. I fear I peaked with the starter on this occasion. Having said this the accompanying roasted vine tomatoes were expertly cooked – there is a tendency to overdo or char small tomatoes but these retained their sweetness and juiciness without all the carbon bitterness.

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Mr Midweek lunch started his eating adventure with a mackerel pate, delightful in it’s creamy horshradishiness. But his favourite part, or so he says, was the sourdough toast. It had that inherent magical warmth that only top quality home made bread has. There was also a bit of green stuff on top, but it seemed half-hearted.

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For his main he went burger. You may be feeling a bit disappointed in him, as it seems like every other week he is either ordering a pizza or a burger, not very imaginative really especially as he has already claimed that the menu had a good range. However, he would respond to you thusly (and you will have to take my word for this as he is not in the room at the moment). Parmesan Fries. Parmesan Fries, what is more, that are St Villa’s signature. And they were good, my yes, as only deep fried potato covered in cheese can be good. The burger was competently done, better than Relish, but it did fail to match the flair seen in some of the other dishes and you wonder if their heart was really in it.

THE SERVICE

The service was absolutely perfect. We were treated with the correct balance of friendliness and respect from knowledgeable waiting staff. We didn’t have to wait too long for food or the bill in spite of the restaurant being busy with a large Christmas party and other ordinary diners such as ourselves.

While it is true that St. Albans has many restaurants we feel that there aren’t many in this mid range group – that being a really good smart place to go for fine food without a really high price tag. This is not Thomson’s level (yet) but it is a fair competitor for Lussman’s and St. Michael’s. It is the perfect place for a date, a ladies/gentlemen’s luncheon or a celebratory meal with friends and family…just about everything really!

Well done St. Villa. You are a very welcome newcomer and we look forward to our next visit.

8.3/10

http://stvilla.co.uk/

Jamie’s Pizzeria

Best Part: The Other Pizza

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Another week, another pizza restaurant with another lunchtime deal. This one is dearer than L’Italiana, though, with pizza and a salad coming in at £9.95. If I’m brutally honest I could have done without the salad, but as it effectively cost negative £1 I went for it. Another key point of difference to L’Italiana was that whilst they were fit to bursting with diners Jamie seemed to be unable to convince many people to take a chance on his pizzas. The emptiness was aggravated by the great distance between tables and the high, echoing ceilings, so it felt somewhat like dining in a Victorian station in the early hours of the morning.
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We have reviewed this space and this gurning mockney before when it was Jamie’s Deli, and the emptiness and the epic trek to the toilets remain the same, even if the menu is slightly less interesting in a town already fairly well serviced for pizza. The options were limited but not in a way that made you struggle to find something you wanted, more that it spared you the agonies of indecision that can strike in some venues. I ordered a meatball pizza, as it contained both meatballs and pizza and thus should be a slam dunk.
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When it arrived (and it took longer than you would expect from a restaurant with no competing patrons and a limited menu) I very quickly noticed that something was missing. A pizza at its most basic comprises a base, tomato sauce and cheese. There was no doubting the first two but I really had to squint to make out the cheese. I should not complain as the menu does specify that it featured parmesan, and there were a few flecks here and there, but to my mind mozzarella is such an integral part of a pizza that it should be assumed. If a pizza menu failed to mention a base I would still feel entirely justified at not being best pleased if I was presented with a squidgy mess of tomato and cheese only. After the initial disappointment the pizza was fairly disappointing, with a burnt base and sporadic toppings. When the waiter asked us how our meal was it was all I could do to make a vaguely positive grunting noise. Mrs Midweek lunch however was very happy with her Mushroom pizza. The base was perfectly thin and crispy and the topping was a really imaginative slant on a pizza standard. As well as ordinary mushrooms it was drizzled with a sort of creamy truffle tasting sauce. I thought it was revolting but I’m glad she was happy.
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The financially beneficial salad was also a bit of a let-down. I ordered rocket and parmesan, a dish that usually delivers great flavour hits despite being largely greenery. When it is done well, peppery fresh leaves and great shaves of parmesan with a slight tangy balsamic undertone, it can be almost as good as a dish featuring meat. In this case, though, rocket was in the minority in a collection of leaves reminiscent of a supermarket bag that had been left open for too long. Once again the cheese was present as the faintest of accent flavours, far less noticeable than the strange grittiness. We were left wondering whether Old Mother Hubbard was in the kitchen realising that the cupboard was bare of parmesan save for a tiny crust. In a panic all they could do was make the  most of it and give each diner 2g each. Here’s another idea – they could have been honest and asked us to make another choice.
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The waiter was as absent as the other clientele when it came to bill-paying time, which meant I had to dash back to work and leave my wife to cover it. On the plus side the range of beers was OK, though mine tasted slightly stale on arrival. Finally, I spilt tomato sauce down my shirt and was roundly mocked on my return to work, though I can’t really blame Jamie for that one.
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I really cannot think why you would want to visit Jamie’s pizzeria, unless you had been turned away from L’Italiana, Cosa Nostra was too much of a walk and you had an aversion to restaurants that begin with the letter ‘Z‘. In that situation I would almost recommend going to Pizza Go-Go. At least you would get some cheese there.
On the whole this has been the worst dining experience of our entire blogging career.
4.4/10