At last a restaurant in Birmingham that celebrates what’s truly great about Italian food.
Fantastic ingredients treated simply but with respect and skill and served generously and with great conviviality.
The newly-opened Laghi’s Deli near Five Ways is breath of fresh air in a city in which most Italian restaurants exist in a time-warp, with their dated identikit menus and waiters brandishing over-sized pepper pots.
It’s owned by a young Italian doctor with tremendous and infectious enthusiasm for food and drink – and a great deal of knowledge about the subjects.
Luca Laghi’s overwhelming motivation seems to be to share that passion with customers.
The ingredients he uses are top-notch.
His mum works tirelessly in the kitchen.
Walk in and there’s an informal area with seating, a bar and counters and, at the side, a more formal dining space.
But it’s unmistakably a cafe-deli.
The decor is understated yet stylish, with lots of bare and rough-hewn wood and uber-cool wine racks on the walls.
It serves breakfasts, lunch and dinner, with food and drink available the rest of the time, too.
Breads, cakes and doughnuts are homemade.
What we ate
The place was packed and buzzing on the evening I visited, foolishly without booking.
So we dallied for a while on one of the tables outside until space became available.
A bottle of excellent nero d’avola from the grape’s homeland of Sicily was absurdly good value at £24 and made the wait more than tolerable, especially with a bowl of stumpy, crisp and beautifully salty breadsticks and a bowl of tangy olives.
Inside, my first course, a Napoli street food standard, was a triumph.
Green olives had been stuffed with mince, breadcrumbed and deep-fried.
Mozarella, too, had been panéed and fried, arriving squidgy and flavoursome.
Most surprisingly of all was the set custard that had been given the same treatment.
The sweetness of the custard worked wonderfully well against the salty snap of the olives.
And all three ingredients – served cleverly on crumpled brown paper not only to mimic the bags in which the food would be served in Naples but also to mop up any residual oil – were perfectly crisp and ungreasy.
Opposite was eaten an pretty and nicely-dressed salad combing various leaves, apple and nuts.
The lamb cutlets to which I progressed were properly pink, gorgeously juicy and full of sweet flavour.
A small mound of perfectly-cooked chips lay alongside, but the dish was elevated to a heady level by fried leeks extravagantly spiked with black truffle which imparted deeply savoury aroma and flavour.
This seemed to be to represent the essence of what Laghi’s Deli is all about – great ingredients handled simply with with a generosity of spirit.
The lasagne eaten by my wife was a proper Italian version – densely-packed, not oozing béchamel sauce and celebrating the pasta (in this case green) as much as the filling.
Need to know
Wine kicks in at around £15 a bottle and goes up to £50.
Hard to say how much you’d spend for dinner because the options are so varied, but it’s good value.
There are vegetarian choices.
It’s child-friendly and accessible for disabled people.
There’s parking in nearby side streets.
22-24 Islington Row Middleway, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 1LD.
0121 455 0660.