Ever tried a panzerotti or a cannoli? Me neither. One is a dough stuffed with mozzarella and tomato then sealed, like a mini calzone, and served piping hot, the other like a chocolate brandy snap pumped full of sweet Italian cream.
Both are undeniably delicious and can be found at Acqua Salata‘s new cafe/restaurant/deli on Corn Street in Witney.
Born in lockdown, Acqua Salata was a simple pop-up set up outside Fat Lil’s in Witney selling authentic Italian produce, fresh pasta, sauces and sandwiches, and an immediate success. (Read about it here https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/theres-a-new-italian-in-town-why-umbrian-pop-up-acqua-salata-is-going-down-a-storm-in-witney/)
Run by Giancarlo Baldoni, and fellow Italian and chef Marcello Silva, the duo were stunned by its popularity, and having always harboured dreams of running their own place, swiftly set about finding more permanent premises.
The resulting eatery on Corn Street (more tea shop aesthetic than restaurant) is already as popular, mediterranean produce everywhere, the deli counter heaving with Italian cheese, meats and more.
Nestled on the counter top were some fresh arancini (rice balls filled with cheese or meat and then fried), all gold and crispy, begging to be eaten.
everything here is made by hand so you know that the basic, artisan dishes will be truly authentic and delicious
I brought my Italian friend and cookery teacher Mariella Bliss, who’s a stickler for authenticity and always engages the owners in animated conversation.
We nabbed a window seat, ordered some really delectable coffee and got going. The plastic menu was simple – paninis for those popping in for a quick lunch – pizza, pasta, panzerotti and arancini for those who had more time. (It’s open until 7pm Wed-Sat and 5pm on Sundays).
But there the simplicity ends and the joy begins, because everything here is made by hand and you know that these basic, artisan dishes will be truly authentic and delicious.
Starting then with said arancini stuffed with a delicious thick meat ragu (although it needed more filling), and the panzerotti, which were £3 each! £3!
Then the pasta. Mamma Mia indeed. Take the simple sounding pesto and tomato spaghetti which wouldn’t be out of place on a children’s menu; it was rich, succulent, and oozing with Mediterranean flavours. I couldn’t get enough. The rigatoni bolognese followed suit, a benchmark of any good Italian restaurant according to Mariella, and Acqua Salata passed the test instantly.
Of the seven pizzas on offer, we chose the ‘pizza contadina’ which came topped with gorgonzola, pear, mozzarella and walnuts. Marcello was very keen that we tried the wholegrain spelt base rather than the classic, despite our misgivings. It was nice, but a bit earnest – I’d rather have the classic frankly. Oh, and a side of round, rosemary crisps, which were a gorgeous little Latin gift.
We couldn’t leave without trying the cannoli, crying out for us to give them a go. So much richness and texture. So naughty! So Italian. So unashamed.
But that’s the thing about Acqua Salata. It may need to grow into its new premises a bit, its thick stone walls still having a slight Cotswold tearoom feel to them, service a bit clanky, but there’s no doubting the passion, love and effort that goes into each and every morsel.
Value for money wise it’s exceptional – £8 for all the pizza and pasta dishes – and there’s some delicious wine on hand to wash it all down with! The wine on tap and refillable wine bottles, are genius.
Acqua Salata is at 62 Corn St, Witney OX28 6BS. https://www.acqua-salata.co.uk