Just before Christmas, Mr W and I had lunch at a destination in Penarth that had always intrigued me: Sugo Bar Diner. Although Sugo has a distinctly Italian ring to it, the Diner part of the name always made me think it would be something other than a traditional Italian restaurant, but the menu confirmed that this is exactly what it is – and indeed its website refers to it only as Sugo Restaurant, so I’m unsure as to whether the ‘Diner’ part of the name is a hangover from a previous incarnation of the venue, or a poor choice when ordering a shop sign!
We only popped in for a quick lunch, so we didn’t sample the menu in full – although, when we visited, this would have taken some time, because in addition to the standard menu, which features an extensive list of pasta, pizza, chicken, salad and seafood dishes, they also offered a lunch menu and a Christmas menu. I’m often a little suspicious of places that have such a wide range of choices, as I’m sceptical as to whether it’s possible to do that many dishes consistently well (unless you have a high turnover of customers and a massive kitchen with numerous chefs), but given Italian cooking doubles up ingredients in a lot of dishes, it is slightly less concerning – although perhaps more so in the case of Sugo, given I’ve never seen it look even remotely busy, so I wondered, given a potentially low turnover of customers, whether some of the ingredients might not be of the fresh kind.
We settled on a couple of pizzas. Mine was topped with olives, cherry tomatoes, pepperoni and blue cheese and then sprinkled with rocket – which, happily, was extremely fresh, and gave me confidence in the rest of the ingredients. The blue cheese originally attracted me to that particular combination, but when it arrived I struggled to actually see any on there, and was all set to send it back when I spotted a couple of tiny morsels on there, so decided to give it a try before being too judgmental! I was really pleasantly surprised. Other than the blue cheese, there wasn’t any cheese on the pizza, but the tomato sauce was light and not too overpowering, and the pizza base itself was fairly thin and quite crispy, so all the flavours worked well together and it was a surprisingly light meal.
Mr W chose a Fiorentina pizza, with fresh spinach, cheese and an egg. We soon discovered that it was famine or feast when it came to cheese, as he had enough on his pizza for both of us. There was very little tomato sauce on his, so the cheese was a bit too rich and overpowering (particularly as the pizza cooled and it became chewier), but the base was still fairly crispy. Disappointingly, the egg yolk had been broken, so there wasn’t any runny yolk on the pizza, which is one of the things Mr W always enjoys with a Fiorentina.
Mr W finished off his meal with a cappuccino, which was Segafredo coffee and apparently very good indeed (it certainly looked impressive!) I’d definitely consider going back in there for a coffee, seeing as it was such good coffee, and sometimes if you want to sit quietly and have a drink whilst reading or working (or waiting for a train!) it’s preferable not to be in a bustling coffee shop.
On the whole, for a quick lunch, we liked Sugo. The waitress who looked after us couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful, and the décor, although not as traditionally Italian as the menu, is pleasant, clean and fresh (although the wooden furniture is a slightly alarming orangey shade, which does make it feel more diner-esque than it should do). It’s a shame that there never seem to be many people dining – there were only one or two other tables being used whilst we were there – so it did lack atmosphere. For that reason, we wouldn’t rush back there to eat in, but they do offer a takeaway and delivery service, which we may well try. It’s difficult to find decent takeaway pizzas – generally they go down the Dominos route, which is definitely not my cup of tea (stuffed crust, anyone?), so somewhere that offers something more authentically Italian, to be eaten in the comfort of your own home, can only be a good thing.
Food: *** Service: *** Ambience: **
Sugo Bar Diner, 1 Royal Buildings, Stanwell Road, Penarth, CF64 3EB