If one is to love the language, that bastard Latin, the glorious sweet tongue of Italian, then to adore the food of the region is as natural as strawberries are in the summertime.
The coastal hub of Southampton is one overflowing with history, culture and possibility- but unlike its fellow South Coast neighbours, it is humbled by its almost self-deprecating nature. Ennio’s finds itself nestled between this, by the waterfront to be exact, and with its location comes half of its magic.
I booked a table with a friend for Friday evening by email and had it confirmed the next morning. We spend the hours before our reservation frantically wondering what to wear, wanting to not be overdressed or underdressed, but still wanting to look like we belonged in an establishment that had earned the accolade of being known as the best Italian restaurant in Hampshire. We settle on all black attire and stroll to the waterfront as the sun begins to set.
Restaurants are not refined just by the food they serve and the wine they propose, but also by the service of its house staff. A young lady greets us at the reception and promptly shows us to our table. Along the way I catch a glimpse of the Lobster tank and thus my mind has been made up long before the menu is presented to me. The menu is indeed brief, but with this brings the promise that the small selection has been carefully chosen. The wine list, however, revels in its choice and boasts a rich array of Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon and Rioja- alas my guest and I opt for Sicilian lemonade, still keeping to some Italian inclination.
I recall Byron as I study the menu;
A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster salad and Champagne, the only true feminine and becoming viands.
Alas my female guest does not opt for the lobster like myself, choosing the Penne Alla Verdure for main, not before we share a portion of Gamberi Agriento; fresh Tiger Prawns cooked in garlic, chilli and of course olive oil. This is accompanied by the simple touch of fresh Ciabatta bread coupled with Balsamic Vinegar and olive oil.
Truth be told, I am struck by how sincere the food is; fresh, clearly lovingly made and quite simply exquisite. Brief memories of my time in Naples float back and I am immovable in my belief that this is good Italian food, a notion so often unattained by many Italian restaurants as they fail to understand the philosophy of Mediterranean cuisine. The lobster present on my plate is finished with a light garlic dressing, a bed of leaves and crispy sauté potatoes. It is a simple meal made splendid by the quality of its ingredients: a central tenet of Italian culinary philosophy.
The evening is more than adequate and we leave Ennio’s satisfied and wondering for what occasion we should revisit, a birthday or perhaps just to escape the mundane repetition of our lives.
Serving as a boutique hotel and restaurant, Ennio’s prides itself in its authenticity, which can be appreciated, from the Teodoreanu to the amateur food enthusiast. Southampton can rejoice with an establishment that is worthy of boasting, from its location to it’s food, Ennio’s is a true credit to the shy Southern Coast city of Southampton.