La Piccola Calabria | A slice of Italy

Many of my friends make a mean plate of pasta so going to a restaurant for pasta is always risky business. What’s the point of paying restaurant prices for something we can make better ourselves at home.

The tiny La Piccola Calabria, tucked away in the north is a well-kept secret, popular with Sicilians and locals alike
The tiny La Piccola Calabria, tucked away in the north is a well-kept secret, popular with Sicilians and locals alike

However after hearing much about this tiny little restaurant in St Paul's Bay we decided to pay it a visit. Once, twice, more times than I can remember we happened to be in the north of the island and someone suggested stopping at La Piccola Calabria for a plate of pasta but every time the restaurant was full and we were too hungry to wait so we had to give it a miss.

Last week, after a day of horse riding in the north we were determined to get into that restaurant. Again the tiny place - with about 10 or so tables - was packed out with bums on every seat. We asked if we could eat at the only table outside, even though it really is just a horrid table in the road. I said we were determined. However the owner wouldn't hear of it as he said "your food will taste of exhaust." That table he said was reserved for the smokers who step outside to break up their meal.

As one of his tables was almost done we decided to sit at the said table and have a drink to wait for a table to come available. Despite the late hour the Sicilian owner was very happy for us to stay and brought us complimentary cocktails while we waited. We were given the menus straight away so we could decide and order before we were seated.

Not long after we were seated at our table and the owner came round to tell us what was special and what was finished. As it was the end of the night some of the fresh shellfish were out of stock and unfortunately the legendary Sicilian sausage was also out of stock, though he said the chef was very happy to recommend substitutions.

We went for varieties of his recommended dishes. I had pasta with legendary Sicilian sausage in a tomato and cream sauce, while the someone else had a different variety of the same pasta in bianco. A third friend went for a carbonara - risky as a good carbonara is absolutely fantastic, however it is easily ruined if the sauce is overcooked or if cream is added.

There was not such thing as a wine list. Just a few bottle on the counter on display. The selection was better than I expected with a number of good bottles of Italian reds, Amarones, Barolos, Brunello di Montalcinos and some cheaper varieties. We were on a bit of a budget so we went for a Nebbiolo which was still quite good.

While we waited we were brought a platter of salamis Calabrese style. Some spicy varieties and some other that were less potent.

The food took a while to arrive but we were in good company with good wine so we weren't too upset by the wait and it certainly was worth waiting for. The portion sizes were too big for my liking - but necessary for hungry men - yet I polished off the entire plate. The pasta was al dente and the sauces were flavourful yet without overpowering flavours. Even the carbonara was cooked well - no hint of cream and the eggs were cooked (or not cooked) to perfection.

We skipped dessert but had a limoncello to round off the meal. The bill was reasonable at just over €20 per person (we managed a second bottle of wine)

La Piccola Calabria, hidden away in St Paul's Bay is definitely worth a visit though it is advisable to book in advance.

Address: 356, High Street, St Paul's Bay

Contact: 79071263