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Carluccio's

Over the last few years a number of friends and family have been to Carluccio’s in various places around the UK and raved about it, so when we found out one was going to be opening in Milton Keynes we were primed with anticipation. Now, this can be a poisoned chalice for a restaurant – when people are really looking forward to it opening there is a lot of expectation on their shoulders, they had a lot to live up to.

As the name suggests Carluccio’s was founded by Antonio Carluccio and his wife back  in 1991 when they opened their first café in London. The aim was to provide an authentic Italian eating experience at a great price, and with the growth the company has seen it has definitely been a success. So when we approached the newly opened restaurant in the new Destination Dining restaurant quarter in thecentre:mk shopping centre, we had high expectations!

The overall feel, as we were led to our table, is definitely more café than restaurant. It has a relaxed feel and isn’t as formal as a restaurant. It is very open; we went on a lovely warm summer’s evening so they had the alfresco dining area open and the main large glass doors were also open letting in some much needed air. Our table was quite near to the food shop which gave us the opportunity to look over the shelves stacked high with fantastic Italian food and drink including some pasta shapes I didn’t even know existed.

When the menu arrived I was pleasantly surprised. I want an Italian restaurant to serve more than just pasta and pizza, Italian food is so much more than that. They had a good choice of starters, a range of salads and the obligatory pasta dishes but there were also ‘secondi’ dishes available including fillet of sea bream, calves liver, breast of chicken and lamb steak.

While our attentive waitress got our drinks, we chose our starters of Mozzarella Dell’isola, long cured Parma ham, topped with rocket leaves, roasted peppers and melted buffalo mozzarella; and Insalata di Mozzarella, fresh buffalo mozzarella served with fresh tomatoes, basil leaves, focaccia and black olives. Both were delicious and you could tell that the mozzarella was fresh and very Italian!

On to the mains and I went for the homemade Ravioli which was filled with the most amazing spinach and ricotta and served in the traditional way with butter and sage. The ravioli was cooked to perfection, which I understand is not that easy. My other half had the gnocchi served with a gorgonzola and spinach sauce. Now, I didn’t know this but gnocchi literally means ‘lumps’ which is a very good description. Again these were cooked perfectly and the sauce was wonderful.

After a ten minute break, we decided we did have room for dessert (funny how that always happens) and after deciding it was too warm for the hot chocolate pudding, we chose two lemon based desserts; the Torta di Limone and the Ricottina al Limon. Both were delicious and had a homemade look and feel about them.

Summary:
Overall, we had a very enjoyable meal and at a really good price. As mentioned at the beginning the feel is very much cafe rather than restaurant and I would equally have been happy grabbing a quick lunch while out doing some shopping as I would sitting down for an evening meal with friends. Carluccio’s is very welcome addition to the eating out culture in Milton Keynes and I personally can’t wait to go back later in the year and sample that hot chocolate pudding.

Facilities:

Children’s menu
Good value children’s menu available.

Disabled facilities
Main restaurant is all on ground floor level. Disabled toilets are available.

Parking
Weekday daytime parking can be difficult and costly (pay and display). Evenings, after 6.00pm, there is plenty of parking available and it is free.

Other amenities
Alfresco dining area available. Food shop and deli within the restaurant with a wide range of good quality Italian food and drink available. Takeaway picnic service is also available.