Review – Al Duomo
Al Duomo is a large Italian restaurant in the centre of Brighton. Situated slap bang in the middle of a tourist mecca – with the Royal Pavilion to its right and the main gateway to The Lanes on its left – Al Duomo is often mistaken for a chain restaurant, something that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A family run business for over 35 years, Al Duomo is fiercely proud of its independence and traditional Italian family ownership. Run by second generation family member Alberto, with support from both family and a team made up of a high European demographic, the vast establishment is going through a tentative rebrand and re-marketing itself as both a restaurant and an entertainment venue.
Our server Patrick – a Dutch gentleman who has been with Al Duomo for over six years – was incredibly passionate about the restaurant’s capability to “cater for all walks of life”: couples, hen parties, stag nights, exchange students, large groups, weddings, work functions, business meetings – you name it, Al Duomo can provide for it.
Staged over an impressive three floors, Al Duomo incorporates an entertainment and nightlife venue on the lower ground floor. Hosting kitsch nights for boozy hens and drunken stags, events include a disco night and both an Elvis and Michael Buble tribute evening.
Entertainment and all welcome ethos aside, was the food any good?
The menu spans over seventy dishes including a range of antipasti, pizza and pasta plus meat and fish options. Al Duomo are trying their damn best to please all that comes through their door, however, some Italian dishes may not be all that authentic – fish and chips, anyone?
Most antipasti start around the £3.75 mark with starters a little pricer at £4.95. Mains range from a very cheap £6.25 for Spaghetti Aglio Olio Peperoncino to an extravagant £20.95 for fillet steak. Most pizza and pasta dishes hover around £8.95.
Patrick recommended starting with the Assaggio – selection of starters for two sharing a large selection of Italian meats, grilled aubergine, bruschetta and arancini (£13.95), paired with a bottle of crisp, dry Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (£17.95)
This collection of Italian antipasti was varying in quality. The salad leaves were crisp, fresh and paired well against the dark bresaola. The full green olives provided a much needed bite and bitterness to the mix. However the bruschetta was exceptionally soggy and topped with a combination of over-ripe tomatoes and bland mozzarella.
The slightly peppery salami, thin smoked ham and bresaola added some much needed flavour to the plate. Rifling through the gigantic portion uncovered tough aubergine and more layers of mozzarella. Finishing the plate were two large arancini. Served luke-warm and filled mainly with ragu, peas, minimal rice and cheese, the two golden balls of nothingness felt like an odd inclusion – an after thought perhaps and certainly not of any particular style or substance at all.
One redeeming feature of the platter was the sheer quantity. We were there for hours, adding an authentic Italian touch to the experience. Quaffing the majority of our wine in this time, we instantly realised the main positive element to this dish – its size and leisurely attributes.
The British version of Spaghetti Carbonara has to be one of my personal all-time favourite comfort foods. Carbonara served with rich double cream is akin to ordering a Domino’s when you know you should really be having Pizzaface. It’s British, Westernised, Americanised – however you want to put it – and (according to my Italian sources) it’s certainly not authentic Italian cuisine.
The Spaghetti Carbonara – with cream, bacon, egg and parmesan cheese – at Al Duomo was no different.
Served in a pristine, deep plate, the Spaghetti Carbonara was compiled of thick strands of spaghetti, awash with large chunks of fatty, salty bacon in a uber-thick creamy sauce. Glittered with shavings of pungent parmesan plus a sprinkle of black pepper, the dish certainly has its appeal amongst those looking for a rich pre-lash stomach liner. However, the Carbonara at Al Duomo was nothing more than a guilty pleasure for yours truly.
A British Italian mix, there are credible attributes to Al Duomo: the family run business, the ability to serve large groups en masse, the perfect tourist hotspot for hen dos and stag nights and their recently expanded large, south-facing terrace is great for people watching over a cocktail or two.
But the food? I’d head back for a glass of wine and a nibble of antipasti – or perhaps a Carbonara, but only when the comfort food cravings kick in.
Words and images by Claire Beveridge
Claire’s food and drink were complementary courtesy of Al Duomo.