Have you ever been to Sicily? No, me neither, but I am always hearing that it is a very good place to eat and that is why it is very exciting that three Sicilians – Salvatore, his wife Ana and his cousin Gaetano – have just opened a beautiful restaurant in Tenterden called Montalbano.
This is their first venture as restaurant owners, but fear not because these three have formidable foody backgrounds from growing up in restaurant-owning families in Sicily and through working in Italian restaurants here and elsewhere in Europe. Salvatore is the front-of-house man, and he, for example, worked for several years in an Italian restaurant in Bexley before spending what he says were five very important and formative years at Bartella's, the well-known Italian eatery in Meopham.
It was only back in January, and then only by chance, that Salvatore and Ana happened on the perfect site for their own restaurant here in Tenterden and they immediately contacted cousin Gaetano, who was a chef in Germany, and, lo, five months later we have this super new restaurant in the High Street.
Unlike so many restaurants which are 'Italian' in name only, Montalbano simply oozes "Italian-ness", and when I was there last Friday evening it was fully booked, which is not bad from a standing start less than two weeks before and is an eloquent confirmation of what an asset to the town this place is going to be, indeed is already. As you would expect from a trio schooled in the markets of Sicily the owners have gone to great lengths to source the best local produce over which to wave their magic Italian wand, yet the prices are very un-magical and down to earth – only £13.95 for a two course lunch including coffee. And one small but important thing which I liked was the absence of the near ubiquitous service charge: here you pay service according to your experience, and every penny that you do pay goes to the staff. That's rare these days. We wish Montalbano and its staff every success.
Tel: 01580 388182
Photo: Lewis J Brockway