Vicky Mulligan discovers a taste of Italy on the Northumbrian coast
When was the last time you had really good arancini? I can tell you when I did – Naples, August 2006, a backstreet ristorante, all checked tablecloths, chianti bottle candlesticks and the finest rice balls I have ever tasted.
Until last night, that is, when crab arancini served up on the Northumbrian coast hit the same sweet spot and took me straight back to old Napoli.
Funny that, how tastes, textures, smells and sounds take you back to places, and in the midst of the UK heatwave, La Famiglia in Amble took me back to that summer holiday marked by those arancini, rectangular pizza ordered by the metre, and more gelato than you should eat in a year, let alone a fortnight.
Back to La Famiglia – the newest restaurant in a stable owned by the brilliant Martin and Ruth Charlton, whose Boathouse Group comprises this, The Old Boathouse in Amble, the Fish Shack in Amble, and Blyth Boathouse. La Famiglia, in a diversion from their winning fish kitchen formula, is a traditional Italian neighbourhood restaurant
Its pizzas are every bit as good as the sublime ones served up at The Old Boathouse down the road, its atmosphere as busy and buzzing as The Fish Shack.
The seafood is, as you would expect, excellent. The salt and pepper squid coating sublime (like Kettle cracked black pepper crisps, in a really good way), while those arancini balls had a great coating with a real crunch, the soft filling offering up the crab flavour first, as it should, followed by the cheese strings all good arancini should reveal when you pull them apart.
The pasta menu is mouthwatering – made on the premises, it includes handmade ravioli of the day and sauces including pepper, tomato, sausage and chorizo, and another with beef brisket, mushrooms, wine, tomatoes and parmesan. There’s creamy risotto served up with Seahouses smoked salmon, samphire and clams, and potato gnocchi in cream sauce with wild mushrooms, spinach and goat’s cheese. The pizzas come in proper rustica form, and there are quality meat and fish mains too.
Nonna would be proud of the portions, the pizza and pasta, and of the welcome, while the menu is just as she would make it, with the added attraction of Northumbrian produce. Now I know I don’t have to go to Napoli every time I want a good meal…
La Famiglia, Queen Street, Amble, NE65 0DD, tel 01665 711 862, www.boathousefoodgroup.co.uk