Liverpool's eateries seem to have got a bit pricey in recent years and bargain cuisine, especially Italian, seems few and far between. Since the demise of my beloved Buca di Bacco's and the increase of chains in the likes of Liverpool 1, I've been yearning for a cosy, caffeine fuelled, garlic infused, traditional Italian treat. Enter Cafe Latino, Bold St's hidden gem.
Tucked away on the first floor, Cafe Latino is an unassuming doorway that you could easily miss. It relies more on word of mouth and has no web presence, giving it true hidden gem status. For those not as eagle-eyed as me, here's a helping hand:
This doesn't look like an Italian to me, I thought as I went up the unassuming staircase. Am I in the wrong place? Then a wonderful smell hit me; a combo of garlic, rosemary and freshly brewed coffee. Definitely on the right track. As the name suggests, Cafe Latino has an informal cafe style setting as opposed to a restaurant, making it the kind of place you could go on your own with a good book to linger over a slice of carrot cake. However, today was all about chowing down on Italian cuisine, not a coffee crawl. I was greeted warmly by the staff- excellent first impression. As I scoured the menu, I was delighted to see all the main courses were just £4.99 and from what I could see from the other diners, the portions were pretty generous. I ordered a penne rustica, the Carnivore ordered penne Polpette, we shared garlic bread and had a mineral water each. The mineral waters are only £1.50 and come in 600ml bottles- one would have definitely have been enough for two of us.
The garlic bread was £3 for 4 slices and it was delicious- big hunky crusty chunks, the garlic not too overpowering. Here is my Rustica- a combo of a rich goats cheese, tomatoes and rocket. A party for the tastebuds indeed, and a more generous portion than some of these pretentious Italian eateries that seem to have popped up all over Liverpool.
The Carnivore was more than happy with her Polpette, an Arrabiata-like sauce combined with a generous helping of meatballs. Her verdict? 'Far superior to Casa Italia. It used to be good in Casa's back in 2002 but it's rapidly gone downhill, and expensive. I'll be coming back to Latino!'
In typical Vindaloo Queen style, I left no room for dessert, but I managed to grab a look at the table of the caffeine-fuelled pensioners next to me. A veritable feast of fudge cake, carrot cake, Danishes... something for everyone. My only negative point of Cafe Latino is that it closes at 17:00, so if you want an after-work Italian treat, it's over to the city's rip-off merchants.