The circle of life...
When Alison and I were in our twenties and newly married, La Romantica became our favourite restaurant.
Homely Italian cooking in a warm atmosphere and, crucially, not too expensive.
Fast forward 35 years and La Romantica is still there.
Still the same tiny building on London Road with the same recognisable layout - a little open kitchen at the rear and one side, a ‘front-room’ type space downstairs with seven tables, now with a red and white theme and Sheffield prints on the walls, and an overspill or private party room upstairs with another half-dozen tables.
And still, thankfully, good hearty freshly-cooked food, friendly service and affordable prices.
You might think the restaurant would have changed hands countless times over the years but that’s not the case.
In fact it has only been in the hands of two families in all that time - the Bohans, now of Nonnas fame, and latterly, the Speeds.
When Geoff Speed arrived at the restaurant as an up and coming chef, the matriarch of the Bohan family said if she was going to teach him the restaurant business and “how to cook Italian food the way English people like it” he had to promise to stay for at least 18 months.
He was true to his word.
He’s been there 28 years.
Now owner-chef, in a family business, 56-year-old Geoff is assisted front of house by his daughter Alex and front, back, side, top and bottom of house by his wife Mandy.
Alison and I were going on a trip back in time so I went ‘old school’ retro on my food choices - mushroom starter, Steak Diane and chocolate pancake.
It was just like old times and we enjoyed it.
My funghi arrabiatta (peppered mushrooms, £4.45) was a proper bowl full in a cream and crushed peppercorn sauce and Alison’s avocado and prawns (£4.75) with a bit of side salad was equally good.
The Steak Diane (£13.95) cooked in white wine, French mustard and cream with sliced mushrooms, was a beautiful fillet steak (no fat, no waste) with good home-cooked chunky chips (with potatoes peeled and chipped by Alex) and separate side salad.
Alison’s Pancake Special (£7.75) - featured smoked salmon, spinach and tomato in a bechamel sauce - and was still bubbling away merrily in its dish when it arrived at the table.
We washed it down with a half-litre carafe of house white Tocai for a bargain £6.30 and couldn’t resist two home-made sweets - a chocolate pancake with good chocolate sauce (£3.95) and an enormous piece of Tiramisu and cream (£4.25).
There were half a dozen tables going on a cold post-Christmas January night so the atmosphere was a bit quiet, and by the very nature of the place you are cheek-to-cheek with other customers, but Alex – who studied catering at Sheffield College’s City campus on Granville Road – brings a friendly face to the proceedings, waitress Naomi was pleasant, and the service was brisk.
With a cappuccino and a lemonade, we paid a total of £48.10
They say never go back.
But we’re glad we did.