SELLOTAPED above the window in Alessandro’s Sicilian restaurant in Richmond was an open plastic bag containing some water. Apparently, they were trying out an old wives’ tale that the waterbag would somehow keep the flies off.

It seemed to work, because it wasn’t until dessert came along that we were buzzed by an irritating, slow-moving bluebottle.

However, the old wives’ tale could not deter an old wife who really was a fly in the ointment. She arrived at this restaurant, which has the cool, intimate feel of a real tavern, with her husband in tow at 9.20pm, and noisily manoeuvred herself, shopping bag flapping, onto the table next to us.

She put aside the napkin which – nice touch – had a couple of breadsticks poking out of it, and demanded a Campari and soda. Soon two waitresses were scurrying around, emptying out cupboards in search for Campari, but none was to be found, a lack she pronounced “ridiculous”.

Huffily, she consulted the menu. It is a huge menu – 16 starters, 14 pastas, 11 pizzas, plus meat, chicken and fish dishes, and a blackboard full of specials – with a huge price range: from £6.95 for a Margherita pizza to £31.95 for Grigliato di pesce, a mixed fresh seafood dish. Something for everyone and every pocket, but, having examined it, she decided she wanted a risotto, which was not on it.

“I have never heard of an Italian restaurant without risotto,” she harrumphed loudly, and as absolutely nothing else would satisfy her passion for risotto, she haughtily stormed out, banging the tables with her shopping bag as she went, and dragging her forlorn husband behind her.

Quite where she thought she would find a risotto at 9.30pm on a sultry evening in Richmond is hard to tell, but she missed a thoroughly good meal.

Petra started with Bruschetta (£5.25), two slices of toasted baguette topped with tomatoes of all shapes and colours. There was mozzarella on top with a balsamic glaze, and it was exactly what you’d hope for in a Bruschetta.

I had Funghi all’Aglio – garlic mushrooms in a creamy sauce (£6.25). It was a large dish, the bottom baguette overwhelmed by juicy mushrooms, but it was neither too mushroomy, not too garlicy – perhaps, ideally, I would have liked a little more punch of either.

But my main course was magnificent. I had chosen Pollo primavera (£14.95) from the specials board. The chicken arrived in a square dish swimming in a creamy sauce – perhaps the most sauce I have ever been served – which was emboldened by the irony leaves of spinach. The moist breast was topped with long sleeves of asparagus which again gave a greeniness to the creaminess of the sauce.

Normally the primavera comes with potatoes and veg, but I opted for salad and chips. The salad was nice – a variety of tomatoes and leaves with slivers of carrot – but the chips were great, perfectly chunky with explosive grains of salt stuck to them.

Petra had chosen the Branzino con Gamberoni (£18.95), which was a fillet of seabass flopped on top of a rich tomato/basil sauce packed with prawns and ornamented by a couple of king prawns. Hard as ever to please, she felt that the seabass was just a touch overcooked, but it didn’t detract from what was a very good dish.

In fact, it was a very large dish that was uncomplete-able because of its size. I had similar concerns. My consumption of gravies and sauces is legendary, but the volume of the primavera pushed me to my limits, even with the gorgeous chips to help soak it up.

There wasn’t a dessert menu. There was either tiramisu, chocolate fudge cake or lemon meringue pie, all homemade and all £4.95 each. It was at this moment that the first – and only – fly of the evening arrived, and it was followed by the entertainment on the table next to us. I wondered what the risotto-hunting lady would have made of such a limited choice, and how far she would have pressed her claim for a panna cotta.

I was quite content with tiramisu and Petra chose the lemon meringue, both of which were exceedingly large. The lemon meringue was well pitched – the crunch of the sweet meringue followed by the tartness of the lemon – and the tiramisu was a gorgeously fluffy coffee heaven.

The bill for food came to £55.30, with drinks £72.05, which was exactly what I expected to pay for a classically Italian meal, artistically presented, of such quality. The only negative was the knives – the handles were triangular and as a result I didn’t know whether they should be standing up or lying down. It was most confusing, but when you are reduced to criticising the cutlery, you know you are splitting hairs.

In fact, despite what the huffy lady might think, there are no flies on Alessandro’s.


Alessandro’s Sicilian Restaurant, 10 Queens Road, Richmond DL10 4AE

Phone: 01748 850 777


Ratings (out of ten): Food 8, Surroundings 6, Service 8, Value 8