Berkhamsted may be teeming with great places to eat but if you are looking for good honest Italian food with a contemporary twist in a great setting then look no further than Carluccio’s.
A popular eating out destination for people from across the Home Counties, Berkhamsted has won a number of awards for its high street offering in the past.
To that end it has a reputation to protect.
Carluccio’s - the brainchild of the godfather of Italian gastronomy, Antonio Carluccio, may be yet another chain - and yes the high street does need to maintain its tradition of having some great independents - but it doesn’t feel like one and in many respects has local at its heart.
For a start Berkhamsted’s Carluccio’s is nestled away in the Listed Old Town Hall building on the high street, making it one of the best and most interesting settings to enjoy a nice meal.
Cosy and inviting inside, the staff offer as warm a welcome as the table filled with a host of delicious desserts which greets you as you walk in.
The menus cater for all ages and are genuinely exciting. It is the sharing platters that steal the show, though. There are meat and veggie versions, the meat version is particularly delicious and boasts succulent freshly sliced meats like Parma ham, salami from Naples and Milan, herb-roasted ham and mortadella. And if you can manage it, the meat is accompanied by olives, caperberries and home baked focaccia.
But don’t miss out on the arancini, a taste sensation which is essentially Italy in a stuffed rice ball. Coated with breadcrumbs and then deep fried, the arancini are balls of gorgonzola and courgette or nduja and buffalo mozzarella, both served with a tomato sauce.
A range of fantastic classic Italian dishes from a hearty traditional lasagne, lobster spaghetti and homemade ravioli, as well as gluten-free pasta, adorn the menu and the mix is just right without offering too much choice that you find yourself overwhelmed. The menu also includes Italian grill dishes of flattened chicken breast topped with Parma ham and mint-marinated lamb cutlets which is a must.
The dessert offering is typical Italian fare with a zesty lemon tart, chocolate cake, tiramisu and meringue to choose from. There is also a collection of Carluccio’s own branded products on offer and you can take some sweet treats home with you if you like too.
Another aspect which gives the chain a local connection is its picnic service.
There are freshly made meat and vegetarian picnic meal platters available at £45 each, which generously feed two people, as well as a children’s version with a mini pizza, cake and juice for £10 and it all comes in a nifty coolbag. So if you are going out to enjoy the fine summer weather we are experiencing at the moment you can place your order over the phone and collect the picnic basket four hours later.
People might ask did Berkhamsted need another chain? Maybe not, but it definitely needs its Carluccio’s.