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It's called Il Padrino and it's where the youth of Saida gather every weekend. Arriving from Beirut to prepare for Souk El Akel we were invited by the Rotaract Club to Il Padrino. The first impression is funny; The classy Al Baba sweets hosting a shisha parlor serving Italian food in coordination with an Italian clothes shop also called Il Padrino.
Everyone knows everyone around here. A wide terrace surrounded with glass is the entrance to the sweet shop. Sofas and green design chairs set around brown square tables. Almost all the customers smoke shisha enjoying the positive mood and vibes. There was a smile on my face while we chose the starters.
The interesting menu:
An interesting menu with "Il Padrino" -the title- in Italian on the cover, families of food in English -like starters and platters- items in Italian and descriptions in Arabic. At the end, French makes it on the menu with a "Bon Appetit" to close.
- Starters, salads, pasta, pizza, gnocchi, risotto, panino, fish platters, meat platters, chicken platters. Gold boxes showcase the specials.
The first impression:
- They use glass water bottles and not plastic ones.
- Fine glasses are used for water.
- The staff is gentle and welcoming.
- The menu is wide and varied.
Dinner stars with a basket of bread and a platter of bread, Parmesan cheese, olive oil and balsamic. Tender brioche bread cut in slices next to grated Parmesan, Lurpak butter packs and the oils. It's a good start!
Appetizers are served:
- The pizza is good, generously filled the pizza looks appetizing before even digging into its crunchy dough and melting cheese. Extremely hot, beware of burning your lips. A rich tomato sauce, a load of fresh and crunchy vegetables and the cheese on top. I loved its thick crunchy borders; that Italian pizza with a Lebanese touch is enjoyable.
- The bruschetta uses the same bread served before dinner. It's toasted and topped with cherry tomatoes cut in half next to a salad of fresh greens.
- Parmigiana Di Melanzane is a portion of eggplant served on a round plate. Layers of cooked eggplant, tender and juicy lying in a bed of acidic tomatoes. Melting cheese on top makes all the difference. They're good!
Now for the main courses:
- Gnocchi Sorrentina served in a porcelain pot, gnocchi with tomato sauce and topped with melting cheese. The melting cheese around here is nice and highly elastic. A light tomato sauce, cream, cheese and mini gnocchi that are not heavy on the stomach.
- Fettuccine with white sauce and mushrooms served in a small pot. Adequate flavors, adequate creaminess, nicely textured mushrooms but I would have personally cooked the pasta a bit less.
- The chicken platter looks like those Lebanese platters served at large dinner events, steamed carrots served cold, fried potato served in sticks, broccoli and three slices of chicken. That's good chicken, the rest I could do without.
- Risotto with mushrooms: A creamy risotto served with a spoon on the plate -something I don't appreciate much- full bodied, but lacking salt. The most important and disturbing part is the rice, overcooked for this majestic creation called risotto.
The best part of this dinner is that the sweet parlor is just behind the glass. Dinner ended with mini baklava bites, those mini crunchy bites, adequately sweet, lightly crunchy, fresh and enjoyable. We Lebanese should be proud of producing baklava better than the Turks. I even tried the new fig biscuits, round shaped and covered with sesame, they crumble under the teeth in such style... Loved them! The one with orange is to die for!
- Promising Italian food in Saida.
- This restaurant gathers the local youth around positive thinking.
- I loved how the restaurant speaks the local community's language. Plates have been tuned to be accepted by a larger crowd.
- "Perfection is in the details", an interesting slogan printed on Christmas placemats used in April!
- A bit of salt is needed here and there.
- Smoke, too much smoke for an "Italian" restaurant.
- An Italian fashion shop, a restaurant and a sweet parlor; Interesting combination! How about a cellular shop to complete the mix?
Il Padrino is Saida's pride!