For some time I’ve been on a quest to find really good pizza in Cardiff. There’s a restaurant in France that Mr W and I have been to quite a few times that does the best wood-fired pizza we’ve ever had, and obviously on trips to Italy good pizza has been plentiful too, but nothing in the UK has ever come close in terms of getting the balance of a thin, crispy (but not burnt) crust with the right amount of toppings.
Café Citta has been recommended to me a few times as offering really authentic Italian food, and as one of the few places locally that has a wood fired oven. Until it was pointed out to me, I have to confess I’d overlooked it: it’s right in the City Centre, with a tiny little shop front, squashed in between its neighbours.
Inside is equally tiny – a long(ish!) narrow room with a bar at one side and an open kitchen, complete with pizza oven, at the back. Tables were squashed in together and a quick count would suggest they can cater for no more than 25 covers at any one time. We visited on a Saturday lunch time and the place looked full, but the turnover seemed quick so we waited in the tiny waiting area and were soon seated. We were actually given a table for four, which was nice, as we had slightly more room and were not quite as close to our neighbours as we might have been. We were, however, quite close to the kitchen, so it was quite warm, and at one point there was quite a bit of smoke that set me, and one of our neighbours, off on a coughing fit!
To start, we shared bread and olives. This was such a simple dish, but had had thought and effort put into it, as the olives were marinated in the most delicious basil oil, and the bread took the form of toasted croutons, which, when dipped in the basil oil, were absolutely divine. I could have made a meal of this alone!
Some of the non-pizza mains seemed quite tempting, but there was no way we were going to miss out on the opportunity for a wood fired pizza! I unfortunately confused the issue by asking for an extra topping on mine, which caused a bit of an issue as our waiter was so authentically Italian that he seemed to struggle with anything that deviated from the menu – my issue, not his, as perhaps I should brush up on my Italian – so when my pizza came (I’d requested dolcelatte and mushrooms with extra ham) it had no ham on it and I had to send it back to have ham added, which meant the ham didn’t feel like part of the pizza and I ended up taking most of it off!
Mr W chose a simpler option: parma ham and mozzarella (not melted) with rocket and more delicious fresh basil oil. This was a fantastic pizza and had the elusive thin, crispy crust, thanks in part I am sure to not having any melted cheese on it. Mine was soggier, due to having mozzarella and dolcelatte topping it – so I preferred Mr W’s choice, which was pretty close to being perfect. The tomato base on both was excellent: flavoursome, despite only being a very thin scraping. I’d definitely choose differently next time and aim for toppings that weren’t as wet!
Service was very friendly, and very authentic. It’s certainly not somewhere you’d go for a romantic meal for two as it’s very hot, quite hectic, and you’d risk being cheek by jowl with your neighbouring table. But for a quick lunch where you know you’ll get good food at reasonable prices and the buzz of somewhere as authentically Italian as it’s going to get in Cardiff (or at least on a par with Casanova) it’s great, and so nice to find something in the City Centre that is not part of a chain and not trying to be anything other than what comes naturally to it. Even though you step out of the hustle and bustle in the City Centre into more hustle and bustle inside, it’s a totally different kind and it almost feels as if you’ve been transported somewhere else as you step through the door. We’ll definitely be going back.
Food: **** Service: *** Ambience: ****
Café Citta, 4 Church Street, Cardiff CF10 1BG